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A Commentary by the Right Rev. DOM 

PAUL DELATTE, Abbot of Solesmes and Superior-General 
of the Congregation of the Benedictines of France. Translated by 
DOM JUSTIN McCANN, Monk of Ampleforth. o & o & 

L O N <D O N 



E.G. 4 


W. i 







Archiep. Birmingamien. 

die 14 Septembris, 1920. 


Unus e CapitularibuSy nomine omnium adstantium, imo et totius Con- 
gregationis, gratias refert Rmo Prasidi quam maxima* et meritisstmas 
pro novo opere juris communis facto, nempe Commentario tn Sanctam 
Regulam, ex quo omnes baurire possumus uberrimam aque ac profundissimam 
notitiam perfections status mc-nastici et largiter accipere purissimum 
spiritum Sanctissimi Patris nostri Benedicti. 



September %th y 1913. 


f I ^HE following translation was made at Ampleforth in 1917, and 

was not at first intended for publication. It has been published 

through the urgency of several friends, who persuaded the trans- 

-^- lator that some such commentary on the Rule, in English, was 

needed and would be welcomed. 

The translation endeavours to be a faithful and accurate rendering 
of the original. In this endeavour the translator has received constant 
help from the Benedictines of Quarr, for which he is deeply grateful. 
He is aware that he has not entirely avoided the defects which are usual 
in translations, and for this he asks the indulgence of his readers. 

The differences between the translation and the original are in 
considerable. A few modifications of the text have been rendered 
necessary by the publication of the Codex Juris Canonici. An index 
has been supplied, and an English version of the Rule set parallel with 
the Latin text. In constructing this version free use has been made of 
current versions, especially of the excellent Rule of St. Benedict of Abbot 
Hunter-Blair. Latin quotations in the text have generally been 

On one further point the translator feels that he owes a word of 
explanation, both to the general reader and to his own brethren. The 
Benedictine monasteries of the world are grouped in Congregations, 
generally on a national basis. Among these Congregations there is 
considerable diversity of discipline and custom; and this though all 
follow the same Rule. Such diversity has been characteristic of 
Benedictinism from the beginning. Now the translator is a member of 
the English Benedictine Congregation, a very ancient body with a 
unique tradition. It is natural therefore that there should be points 
of interpretation on which he would differ from the author of the 
Commentary. But he has not allowed his own opinions to affect the 
translation; he does not even think it necessary to mention them; he 
would only ask the reader to observe that such phrases as " our Congre 
gation," " our Constitutions " etc., wherever they occur in the text, as 
indeed every word and sentence of the book, are uttered, not by the 
translator, but by the author, the very distinguished Superior- General 
of the Benedictines of France. 

Finally, the translator desires to express his gratitude to the author 
for the privilege that has been allowed him. And he wishes to associate 
his work, in its degree, with the spirit and intention of the Dedication . 



" fT"^HE man of God, Benedict, among the many wonderful works 
that made him famous in this world, was also conspicuous for 
his teaching : for he wrote a Rule for monks, remarkable for 

A- discretion and rich in instruction. If anyone desires to know 
more deeply the life and character of the man, he may find in the 
ordinances of that Rule the exact image of his whole government: 
for the holy man cannot possibly have taught otherwise than as he 
lived." To this judgement of St. Gregory the Great, 1 so complete 
for all its grace of form and sobriety of language, we may yet add two 
observations : first that the moral beauty of St. Benedict, his tempera 
ment and almost his characteristics, are reflected also in the pages, at 
once candid and profound, of his biographer; secondly, that the Rule 
itself came, in the middle of the sixth century, as the ripe fruit of a 
considerable monastic past and of the spiritual teaching of the Fathers. 

St. Benedict was above all else a man of tradition. He was not the 
enthusiastic creator of an entirely new form of the religious life : neither 
nature nor grace disposed him to such a course. As may be seen from 
the last chapter of his Rule, he cared nothing for a reputation of origin 
ality, or for the glory of being a pioneer. He did not write till late, 
till he was on the threshold of eternity, after study and perhaps after 
experience of the principal monastic codes. Nearly every sentence 
reveals almost a fixed determination to base his ideas on those of the 
ancients, or at least to use their language and appropriate their terms. 
But even though the Rule were nothing but an intelligent compilation, 
even though it were merely put together with the study and spiritual 
insight of St. Benedict, with the spirit of orderliness, moderation, and 
lucidity of this Roman of old patrician stock, it would not for all that 
be a commonplace work: in actual fact, it stands as the complete and 
finished expression of the monastic ideal. Who can measure the 
extraordinary influence that these few pages have exercised, during 
fourteen centuries, over the general development of the Western world ? 
Yet St. Benedict thought only of God and of souls desirous to go to 
God; in the tranquil simplicity of his faith he purposed only to establish 
a school of the Lord s service: Dominici schola servitii. But, just 
because of this singleminded pursuit of the one thing necessary, God 
has blessed the Rule of Monks with singular fruitfulness, and St. Benedict 
has taken his place in the line of the great patriarchs. 

We may almost say of the Benedictine Rule what is certainly true 
of the Law of God that it bears in itself its own justification, that 
it is self-sufficient; " the judgements of the Lord are true, justified in 
themselves," and that it only needs to be read and loved and lived. 

1 Dialogues, bk. II., chap, xxxvi. This second book is devoted to the life of 
St. Benedict ; there is a French translation by E. CARTIER. [An English translation, 
adapted from an earlier version, has been printed in the QUARTERLY SERIES.] 


x Introduction 

A practical commentary on words dictated by the Spirit of God has 
scarcely any other task than to spell them tenderly, to emphasize them 
wisely, and to put them in the clearest light. And, indeed, a long 
series of labours might very usefully converge on a literal explanation 
of the Rule: a study, for instance, of monastic institutions from the 
holy ventures of the Church of Jerusalem and the heroism of the 
Thebaid to St. Basil and to St. Benedict ; a study of the life of St. Benedict ; 
a critical history of the text of the Rule and a history of its diffusion; 
an account of the living interpretation furnished by the customaries 
and the Rules modelled on St. Benedict s; and finally a view of contem 
porary monachism. Without entirely neglecting any of these questions, 
especially those which are necessary for the understanding of the text, 
our Commentary remains, even in its printed form, what it originally 
was : an exposition of the Rule given in the Novitiate of the Abbey of 
Solesmes. It reproduces, in an abridged form, conferences introductory 
to the monastic life. Hence the absence of any scientific apparatus 
properly so called; hence sometimes the familiar and homely style; 
hence certain repetitions, provoked most often by the insistence of our 
Holy Father himself. Perhaps the publication of these notes will 
satisfy, in some measure, the interest of the many Christian souls who 
ask us every day for enlightenment on the mode of life, spirituality, and 
real usefulness of monks. 

The text we explain is the one in current use in the Congregation 
of the Benedictines of France. But everyone may consult the critical 
editions of Schmidt and of WolfHin, the labours of Traube, Plenkers, 
G. Morin, and other scholars, and especially the excellent edition 
brought out in 1912 by the Right Reverend Dom C. Butler. 1 We 
must indicate briefly the chief theories that have been propounded with 
regard to the history of the text. Dom Schmidt was the first to point 
out the existence of two very distinct families of manuscripts. Accord 
ing to him the most ancient manuscripts (Oxoniensis, of the end of the 
seventh century; Feronensis LII. (otherwise 50) and Sangallensis 916, 
of the eighth to ninth century) give the text of a first redaction of the 
Rule; all three seem to come from an immediate common source. 
D. Schmidt even thought that he had found in a Tegernsee manuscript 
(Monacensis 19408, ninth century) the representative of an autograph 
copy entrusted by St. Benedict to St. Maurus when the latter went to 
Gaul. The Monte Cassino autograph, of which Theodemar sent 
Charlemagne a faithful copy 2 that was spread widely, would then 
represent a second and final redaction. WolfHin, in the preface to his 
edition of the Rule, puts forward the hypothesis of three or even four 

1 President of the English Benedictine Congregation. 

2 We may follow the history of this copy, if it be indeed the same one, in PAUL 
THE DEACON, De gestis Langobardorum, \. IV., c. xviii. 5 1. VI., c. xl. (Patrologia Latina, 
XCV., 547-548, 650-651), and in the Chronicle of Monte-Cassino by LEO OF OSTIA, 
1. I., 48 (P.L.) CLXXIII., 555). The latter relates that the autograph was destroyed 
in the burning of the monastery of Teano in 896. 

Introduction xi 

It is certain that St. Benedict did not compose his Rule at one 
stroke; Chapters LXVII.-LXXIII. are an addition; the Prologue was 
probably written last. But, according to the view that tends more 
and more to prevail, the manuscripts do not reveal the existence of 
several editions ot the Rule issued by St. Benedict himself. Traube, 
Plenkers, and Butler have shown that the text of the most ancient codices 
that remain to us is really an emended and interpolated text. The 
genuine and standard text must be sought for in the twofold Carlo- 
vingian and Cassinese tradition: especially in Sangallensis 914, tran 
scribed, in the early years of the ninth century, from the copy sent to 
Charlemagne. 1 D. Morin has issued a critical edition of this manu 
script, and D. Butler has taken it as the basis of his labours. The text 
on which we comment is a vulgate, a text which has been worked up 
and improved, like that of the most ancient codices, and at about the 
same time; D. Butler finds traces of this textus receptus as early as the 
eighth century; and this is the text reproduced in the majority of 
the manuscripts of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, and in 
the printed editions. Let us remember finally that St. Benedict wrote 
in the vulgar tongue as spoken in the neighbourhood of Cassinum in the 
sixth century : the grammar and spelling of our text are largely retouched. 
We have not yet got the definitive critical edition. 

There is a very great interest in watching the genesis of the Rule, 
in examining in detail how much of it is old and how much new. To 
facilitate this task D. Butler has assembled and transcribed the chief 
sources at the foot of his text: we have thus been able to add some 
references to those which we had already collected. St. Benedict often 
quotes St. Augustine, and several times St. Jerome; he had read St. 
Cyprian, St. Leo, and Sulpicius Severus. The Rule is reminiscent 
continually of the Institutes and the Conferences of Cassian. 2 Much 
is borrowed from the two collections of the Rules of St. Basil, the Regulce 
fusius tractate^ and the Regulae hrevius tractate?, or rather from the 
summary and fusion of the two effected by Rufinus, their translator into 
Latin. St. Benedict reproduces many a passage of the Rule of St. 
Pachomius translated by St. Jerome. He quotes the Rules of St. 
Caesarius Ad monacbos and Ad virgines; the Rule of St. Macarius of 
Alexandria; the first two of the so-called Rules of the Holy Fathers; 
the Regula Orientalis; the Doctrina of St. Orsiesius, etc. 3 He was 

1 Cf. PAULI DIACONI, Epist. I. (P.L., XCV., 1585). This copy no longer 

2 We shall cite CASSIAN after the edition of MICHAEL PETSCHENIG, vols. XIII. 
(Conlat tones) and XVII. (De institutis caenobiorum) of the Vienna Corpus scriptorum 
ecclesiasticorum latinorum. But the reader will do well not to neglect the commentary 
of the old editor DOM ALARD GAZET, P.L., XLIX. These two works of Cassian have 
been translated into French by E. CARTIER. [There is an English translation in 
vol. XI. of the Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.] 

3 We shall cite all these Rules from the Codex Regularum of ST. BENEDICT OF 
ANIANE, edited by HOLSTENIUS (Paris, 1663); likewise the Rules subsequent to 
St. Benedict, in particular the interesting anonymous Rule called the Rule of the 
Master (seventh century). 

xii Introduction 

familiar also with various hagiographical collections since grouped under 
the general title of Lives of the Fathers : the Life of St. Antony, the 
Lausiac History of Pattadius, the History of the Monks of Egypt trans 
lated by Rufinus, the Verba seniorum ; etc. 1 

A word now on the principal commentaries. The oldest that has 
come down to us is probably that of Paul the Deacon, generally identified, 
though the point is not absolutely established, 2 with Paul Warnefrid, 
the historian of the Lombards, a monk of Monte Cassino towards the 
end of the eighth century. The commentary of the Frank Hildemar is 
scarcely more, according to Traube, than a slightly expanded copy of 
the preceding one. Like the commentary of Smaragdus, Abbot of St. 
Mihiel, Hildemar s was composed in the first half of the ninth century. 
Bernard of Monte Cassino in the thirteenth century, and Petrus Boherius 
in the fourteenth, also wrote explanations of the Rule. 3 In 1638 D. 
Hugh Mnard published, with copious and learned notes, the Concordia 
Regularum of St. Benedict of Aniane, the great monastic reformer of the 
beginning of the ninth century. 4 But the most complete commentaries 
are still those of D. Mege and D. Martene in the seventeenth century, 
and above all of D. Calmet in the century following. D. Mege and 
D. Calmet wrote in French; and the latter gives an " alphabetical 
list of authors who have written on the Rule of St. Benedict " with 
" critical observations on the rules of the monks and canons." The 
only French commentary of any size that has appeared since is the 
Explication ascetique et historique de la R&gle de saint Benoit, par un 
Bentdictin (1901). 

The Holy See having constituted the Congregation of France heir 
to Cluny and St. Maur, we have a special motive for paying regard 
to the customs of those two families. The most ancient collection that 
contains the use of Cluny is the customary of Guy of Farf a ; next comes 
the Ordo Cluniacensis of Bernard; and finally the Antiquiores consuetu- 
dines Cluniacenses of Udalric, reproduced, with some modifications, in 
the Constitutions of William of Hirschau: all works of the eleventh 

1 For simplicity we shall take passages that occur in the Vit* Patrum from the 
edition of ROSWEYD (1615). The Greek text of the Lausiac History of Palladius 
should now be cited according to the edition of D. BUTLER (vol. VI. of Texts and 
Studies, Cambridge, 1904); it has been translated into French by A. LUCOT 
(Paris, 1912). 

2 Cf. D. BUTLER, Sancti Benedicti Regula Monachorum, Prolegom., p. xvii. 

3 The commentary of PAUL WARNEFRID was edited at Monte Cassino in 1880 ; 
that of HILDEMAR, by D. MITTERMULLER, being appended to bk. II. of the 
Dialogues of St. Gregory and SCHMIDT S edition of the Rule, and published by 
Pustet at Ratisbon, also in 1880 ; SMARAGDUS is printed in tome CII. of Migne s 
Latin Patrology (see L. BARBEAU, Essai critique sur la vie et les ceu vres de Smaragde, 
thesis for the Ecole des Chartes, 1906, pp. 1-6) ; BERNARD OF MONTE CASSINO was 
edited at Monte-Cassino by D. CAPLET, in 1894.5 BOHERIUS at Subiaco by 
D. L. ALLODI, in 1908. 

* On the manuscripts of the two works of ST BENEDICT OF ANIANE, and on the 
edition of the ancient Latin monastic Rules which is being prepared by the Vienna 
Academy, see H. PLENKERS, Untersuchungen zur Ucberlieferungsgeschichte der altesten 
lateinischen Monchsregeln, Munich, 1906. 

Introduction xiii 

century. 1 Recourse may also be had to the Disquisitiones monastics 
of D. Haeften (1644), anc ^ to the De antiquis monachorum ritibus of 
D. Martene; as well as to the Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Benedicti and 
the Annales of D. Mabillon. 2 

The primary purpose of these studies is neither curiosity nor historical 
knowledge: our concern is with the soul and with the supernatural life. 
By constant communing with the master thought of St. Benedict and 
with the minds of his best disciples, will the sons of D. Gue"ranger be 
able to keep alive among them the true spirit of monasticism. 

1 The Customs of UDALRIC were edited by D. Luc D ACHERY in his Spicilegium, 
and reprinted by Migne in tome CXLIX. of his P.L. The other customaries are to 
be found in the Vetus disciplina monastica of D. HERRGOTT ; those of Farfa and 
Hirschau in tome CL. of the P.L. Dom B. ALBERS re-edited the Comuetudines 
Farfenses (in 1900, at Monte Cassino) in the first volume of his Consuetudines 
monastic*; in the second volume he gives Consuetudines Cluniacenses antiquiores,vi\i\c\\ y 
according to him, are in reality the oldest known, and of which part may date even 
from the time of St. Benedict of Aniane. 

2 We shall cite the De ant. monach. rit. after the Antwerp edition, 1738 ; the 
De ant. Ecd. rit. after the Antwerp edition, 1736 ; the Annales of MABILLON after the 
Lucca edition, 1739-1745 ; the Acta SS. O.S.B. according to the Venice edition, 1733. 


















1 68 

CATE - 2 2O 









xvi Contents 
































INDEX ... ... 497 



Ausculta, o fill, prascepta magistri, 
et inclina aurem cordis tui, et admoni- 
tionem pii patris libenter excipe, et 
efficaciter comple; ut ad eum per 
obedientiae labor em redeas, a quo per 
inobedientiae desidiam recesseras. 

Hearken, O my son, to the precept 
of your master, and incline the ear of 
your heart: willingly receive and 
faithfully fulfil the admonition of your 
loving father, that you may return 
by the labour of obedience to Him 
from whom you had departed through 
the sloth of disobedience. 

OTHER Rules have a more impersonal character, a more concise 
and formal legislative air: St. Benedict in his first words puts 
himself in intimate contact with his followers, commencing 
the code of our monastic life with a loving address. 
He who speaks is a master; for we cannot dispense with a master 
in the supernatural life, which is at once a science and an art. He 
gives precepts -that is to say, doctrinal and practical instruction. 
St. Benedict here speaks of himself, though many commentators have 
thought differently. It is no folly to call himself master, since he teaches 
not in his own name, nor things of his own devising. He wrote near 
the end of his life and in the fulness of his experience. Why should 
he not be a loving father pius -pater, as he expresses it ? 

" O my son": a title of endearment; softening whatever austerity 
there may be in the " precepts of the master," suggesting also that 
the highest form of fatherhood is that which transmits doctrine and 
enlightenment, having its ideal and source in God the " father of light " 
(Jas. i. 17). St. Thomas tells us that there is a true fatherhood among the 
angels; 1 and in the Old Testament, among the patriarchs for instance, 
if a man was a father he had to be a teacher as well, and while he gave 
life had to enlighten the soul and hand on the teachings of God and His 
promises; so is Noah called a " herald of justice " (2 Pet. ii. 5). Ex 
perience shows that no earthly fatherhood has ever so closely resembled 
the fatherhood of God as did St. Benedict s. The Church venerates 
him as the patriarch of the monks of the West; and God has so disposed 
the course of history that every religious Order is in some way indebted 
to him and has learnt from his fatherly wisdom. 

Truly these first words of the prologue are attractive and reassuring. 
The master who addresses you, my child, is a father, a good and loving 
father. The precepts which he brings you are counsels dictated by 

1 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, Summa TbeoL, P. I., q. xlv., a. 5, ad. i. 

2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

his experience and his love " the admonition of your loving father." 
He does not dream of imposing them on you, but appeals to your good 
will, to your delicacy of perception; there is no question of constraint, 
but of a loving and glad acceptance, of supernatural docility. 

This docility St. Benedict requires of every beginner; this same 
docility, under the forms of humility and obedience, gives our monastic 
life its authentic character; and, finally, by it is sanctity won: " Whoso 
are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. viii. 14) 
The sovereign importance of this simple, unaffected disposition comes 
from the fact that it comprises in itself all virtue. To begin with, 
docility means prudence, and in prudence are united all the moral 
virtues. We cannot in our own persons have all experiences; but 
others have had them, and we reap the benefit of these by our docility. 
We make our own the wisdom of humanity supernaturalized, the 
wisdom of St. Benedict, and faith makes us share the very wisdom of 
God. Docility, and docility alone, establishes us in that state whence 
all self-seeking has been driven, a state which is the condition and the 
prelude of a living union with Our Lord. Its name then is charity. 

We should note how St. Benedict analyzes and details the successive 
stages of supernatural docility. "Hearken": for we must listen; if 
there be too much noise in the soul and the attention be scattered over 
a multitude of objects, the voice of God which is generally quiet as 
" the whistling of a gentle air " (3 Kings xix. 12) is not heard. That 
silence which of itself is perfect praise, " To thee silence is praise," 1 
is rare among beings so fickle and impressionable as we are. 

But to hearken is not enough, and St. Benedict invites us in the 
pretty phrase of the Book of Proverbs 2 and Psalm xliv. to " incline 
the ear of our heart." We must have a receptive understanding, a 
trustful attitude towards the truth that is proposed to us. If we begin 
by putting obstacles, by establishing at the entry of our souls a strict 
barrier, or still more, if we be filled with our own views to the point of 
saying, " He cannot teach me anything new; I know all that and better 
than he does ! . . ." then we are in the worst possible mental state, 
not only for supernatural teaching, but even for purely human instruc 
tion. Claude Bernard 3 tells us that the scientist, while striving to 
formulate and verify his hypothesis, must be careful not to be led captive 

1 Ps. Ixiv. 2, according to the Hebrew. 

2 C. iv. Audi, fili mi, et suscipe verba mea. . . . Fill mi ausculta sermones meos 
et ad eloquia mea inclina aurem tuam. Ne recedant ab oculis tuis, custodi ea in media 
cordis tui. 

St. Jerome begins one of his letters ad Eustochium with the words of Ps. xliv. 
(Ep. XXII. i. P.L., XXIL, 394). 

It would be inaccurate to set down as source of this beginning of the Prologue the 
beginning of the Admonitio ad filium spiritualem which figures among the spuria of 
St. Basil, and was inserted by HOLSTENIUS into the appendix of his Codex regularum. 
This treatise is probably the work of ST. PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA; but the beginning and 
other passages have been added later by some monk; cf. P.L., XCIX., 212 sq. (See 
also P.L., XL., 1054 sq.*) 

3 Introduction a V etude de la medecine experimentale. 

Prologue 3 

by it, but must always remain accessible to any other better explanation. 
Our Holy Father asks us, then, to listen willingly, with free souls: 
" willingly receive." Let us ever accept at once the teaching which is 
given to us; if there be in it any elements which we cannot assimilate, 
these will be eliminated later of themselves. 

" Et efficaciter comple" And faithfully fulfil. It is the property 
of truth to move us to action. We cannot " hold it captive in injustice " 
(Rom. i. 1 8). We shall have to answer to God for all the good we have 
seen and have not done. But therein too lies the difficulty; for sin has 
upset the balance of our being: seeing, willing, loving, performing, 
these are far from being one single operation. 

So lest the work should frighten us, and to make clear at once its 
character and plan, our Holy Father, with the insight of genius, yet in 
the quiet classical style, sets down that which is the prize of our life, 
that which should be its single object, that which gives it its dignity, 
charm, and power, its merit and simplicity, that in which is contained 
the whole Rule: " that you may return to Him by the labour of obedi 
ence." For our business is not to live many years, and to become 
learned, or to make a name in the world, but to walk to God, to get near 
to Him, to unite ourselves to Him. This manner of conceiving the 
spiritual life as a fearless walking to God is a favourite one with St. 
Benedict; we shall meet it many times in the Rule. Our life is on an 
inclined plane : we may ascend or descend, and the latter is very easy. 
Since the Fall, man has only one way in which to separate himself from 
God, and that is the way of the old Adam, disobedience; and he has, 
too, but one way to return and that is by obedience, with the new Adam. 
" For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners : 
so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just " (Rom. v. 19). 
We pride ourselves on our disobedience, as giving proof of energy and 
vigorous personality; but St. Benedict declares that it is merely cowardice 
and sloth; and if he speaks of the contrary attitude of mind as " labour "- 1 
he will presently tell us of its solid fruitfulness and incomparable dignity. 

Ad te ergo nunc meus 2 sermo dirigi- To you, therefore, my words are 

tur, quisquis abrenuntians propriis now addressed, whoever you are, that, 
voluntatibus, Domino Christo vero renouncing your own will, you do take 
regi militaturus, obedientiae fortissima up the strong and bright weapons 
atque praeclara arma assumis. of obedience, in order to fight for the 

Lord Christ, our true King. 

In these words St. Benedict indicates to whom his invitation is 
addressed, for whom is the scheme of life just sketched in rough outline. 
To you my words and my fatherly exhortation are now addressed, 
whoever you may be, provided you be docile and resolute. So that 

1 Dicebant senes : quia nihil sic quterit Deus ab his qui primitias habent conversa- 
ttontSj quomodo obedientiee laborem (Verba Seniorum : Vitce Patrum, V., xiv. 15. 
ROSWEYD, p. 619). 

2 The best reading is mibi. ST. JEROME likewise says, in Letter XXII. ad Eusto- 
chium (15): Nunc ad te mihi omnis dirigatur oratio (P-L., XXII., 403). 

4 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

if we except the incapable and those who are bound by the ties of 
other duty, no one is excluded. All that is required in the candidate 
is the intention to accept the conditions of the monastic life, which are 
reducible to three : renunciation of one s own will, the taking up of the 
weapons of obedience, and service of the Lord. 

To renounce one s own will is a necessary preliminary. St. Benedict 
speaks of " wills " in the plural, 1 because self-will or egoism has many 
forms. Without pretending to classify them we may observe that 
states of will may be spontaneous, or systematic, or temperamental. 
The first of these are the least dangerous, because implying only the 
mistake of a moment, a temporary distraction or interruption of con 
tinuity. The systematic will is continually springing up in the course 
of the* religious life. On the day of our profession we renounced all 
things, but we build up the old again later on. It may be a question 
of a person one likes or dislikes, or a question of doctrine, some detail 
perhaps on which we cannot yield. Still more difficult is it to rid 
ourselves of temperament, of that disagreeable, obstinate, wrangling 
temper which sets us everlastingly in opposition. 

In proportion as we strip ourselves of the old secular vesture of egoism 
and cast off all its trappings, so shall we be ready to take and use the 
weapons of obedience. St. Paul regards the principal virtues as different 
pieces of the supernatural armour; but our Holy Father gives one general 
name to the arms which he gives to his monks, 2 and speaks of the 
" weapons of obedience." A soldier has to obey, to obey always and 
no matter what happens; and a soldier of Jesus Christ has to obey 
universally and without asking for reasons; it is the least he can do. 
We have heard a great deal on the immorality of the vow of obedience, 
and what are called the passive virtues have received plenty of abuse. 
But St. Benedict had other notions of human dignity; in his view the 
weapons of obedience were the strongest, the best tempered, the most 
splendid, the most glorious. We obey God, we obey a Rule which we 
have studied and chosen; we obey a man, but within the limits of our 
vow. And while we obey we are free, since it is of our own act that 
we unite our will to the will of God, which can hardly entail any loss 
of dignity. Moreover, we are bound to make the real motive of the act 
our own, and so we unite our thoughts with the Divine thought. 

Once we are enrolled and armed we have but to fight under the 
standard of the true King, the Lord Christ: "to fight for the Lord 
Christ our true King." 3 We serve Him and His purpose, and we 

1 The same expression occurs in the Verba Seniorum (Vit<e Patrum, V., i. 9. 
ROSWEYD, p. 562) and in the Historia monachorum of RUFINUS (XXXI. ROSWEYD, 
p. 484). St. Benedict cites in Chapter VII. the verse of Ecclesiasticus, xviii. 30: Et a 
voluntatibus tuis avertere. 

2 Cf. Exhortatio de panoplia ad monachos (inter S. EPHREM. opp. graec. lat., t. III., 
p. 219). 

3 Sum enim laboriosus, etiam nunc sub magno opere peccator ; veteranus in numero 
peccatorum, sed eeterno Regi novus incorporeee tiro militia (S. PAULINI NOLAKI, Ep. IV. 
ad S. Augustinum. P.L., LXL, 165). 

Prologue 5 

serve according to the example He has given. " In the head of the book 
it is written of me that I should do thy will. O my God, I have 
desired it, and thy law in the midst of my heart" (Ps. xxxix. 8, 9). 
"Being made obedient even unto death" (Phil. ii. 8). Let us have 
a full realization of the drama which is being enacted, and in which we 
have to play our part. This drama fills all time and all space. It 
began, with the very beginning of things, in the angelic world, by an 
act of disobedience. This brought another in its train here below, 
one which has been repaired by the obedience of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 
All intelligent beings are ranged in two camps, those who obey and those 
who obey not; and the struggle of the two forces knows no truce. 
Each has its king, and he who claims to withdraw himself from obedience 
passes by this very fact under the domination of the other King. God 
for god, I prefer my own. In the army of those who obey the Lord, 
religious form a picked body. Our Holy Father recognizes elsewhere 
that the monastic life is also a school, a workshop, and above all a family. 

In primis, 1 ut quidquid agendum In the first place, whatever good 

inchoas bonum, ab eo perfici instantissi- work you begin to do, beg of Him with 

ma oratione deposcas; ut, qui nos jam most earnest prayer to perfect it; that 

in nliorum dignatus est numero compu- He who has now vouchsafed to count 

tare, non debeat aliquando de malis us in the number of His children may 

actibus nostris contristari. not at any time be grieved by our evil 


Our Holy Father s first piece of advice and his first care is that we 
should rest on God in order to go to Him. We need grace and we 
need the prayer which wins grace; for these two things are connected 
and go necessarily together. This clear statement, at the very begin 
ning of the Rule, makes short work of any Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian 
corruption of the truth. Pelagius, a wandering monk, held that man 
was essentially good, that his good will was sufficient for right action. 
Besides this he needed, but only as external helps, the law, and the 
teaching and example of Our Lord. Cassian himself, in his thirteenth 
Conference, considers that our reason and will are sufficient for the first 
act by which we accept the faith and enter upon the life of grace. The 
words of St. Benedict are profoundly wise and are in agreement with the 
teaching of the Council of Orange : 2 " The assistance of God must ever 
be asked even by the baptized and the saints, that they may be able to 
reach a good end or to persevere in good." 

We cannot do without God. God has part in each one of our acts, 
and influences their very origin. This is especially true of supernatural 
acts, because the created agent is there setting forces to work which 
are not his own. The first movement towards the faith and to baptism 

1 With recent editors (SCHMIDT, WOLFFLIN), we might join dirigitur and in primis, 
treating quisquis abrenuntians ... as a parenthetical clause. D. BUTLER rejects this 
punctuation as contrary to that of the best manuscripts and to the interpretation of the 
oldest commentators. 

2 Cap. x., MANSI, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima Collectio, t. VIII., col. 714. 

6 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

is due to an impulsion of His grace; so too a true religious vocation comes 
from Him and not from any course of reasoning or philosophic deduction. 
But the co-operation of God is as indispensable for the continuance 
of this supernatural work as for its commencement; for it is a long work, 
as long as life. And though our vocation be angelic, our natures are 
not so. The angel is steadfast in the one act of his will; we with our 
weaker natures, more open to attack and assailed by lower impulses, 
must ever be renewing our purpose, so ready are we to fail before 
difficulty. Therefore we must go to God and ask Him in fervent prayer, 
prayer instant and untiring, instantissima oratione, for the grace to 
" perfect," the grace of perseverance. 

There can be no doubt that God yields to our prayer; He has 
already engaged to do so, He has tied His hands. The best answer 
to the natural question, Shall I have strength to persevere ? is that 
God has anticipated us: "For he hath first loved us. ... With 
an everlasting love have I loved thee, therefore I drew thee, having 
pity on thee." His love is eternal. He has drawn close to each one of 
us. As a mark of it He has in baptism given us unasked the supernatural 
and divine life. Now we are of the number of His children. Let us 
then be what He has made us. Let us not by misdeeds belie that dignity 
to which His mere love has raised us. Let us strive not to cheat His 
goodness, nor to give Him cause to repent of it. In words full of 
insight and filial love, St. Benedict regards the development of our 
perfection as a personal success of God, and its miscarriage as a 
disappointment of the Almighty. 

Ita enim ei omni tempore de bonis For we must always so serve Him 

suis in nobis parendum est: ut non so- with the good things He has given us, 

lum, ut iratus pater, non aliquando that not only may He never, as an 

filiossuosexhaeredet;sednecutmetuen- angry father, disinherit His children, 

dus Dominus, irritatus malis nostris, ut but may never, as a dread Lord, in- 

nequissimos servos perpetuam tradat censed by our sins, deliver us to ever- 

ad pcenam, qui eum sequi noluerint ad lasting punishment, as most wicked 

gloriam. servants who would not follow Him 

to glory. 

These words develop what has just been said. Prayer and grace 
are necessary for us that we may obey God all our lives and at every 
moment of our lives, for that is really the task which has been set us 
and accepted by us. Nothing will be wanting to us that we may fulfil 
it well, if our prayers win us grace and our fidelity makes it fructify. 
The source and the measure of our supernatural riches are also the source 
and measure of our obligations and responsibilities, and we are become 
before God sons and servants. 

We are children of God, not by any legal fiction, but by a deep and 
real assimilation to His only Son; because of that divine life which grace 
implants within us, we hold an unassailable title to the inheritance 
of that Son: "And if sons, heirs also, heirs indeed of God and joint 
heirs with Christ " (Rom. viii. 17). This supernatural life is endowed 

Prologue j 

with faculties suitable to it: faith, hope, and charity. There are 
sanctifying grace, the theological virtues, the moral virtues, the gifts 
of the Holy Spirit, and all sorts of helps. These are the " good things 
He has given us " of which St. Benedict speaks. This is the treasure 
which He has entrusted to our charge and to which we have to add as 
much as possible. " Trade till I come " (Luke xix. 13). 

Fidelity and success are asked of us not only because we love Our 
Lord and are anxious not to sadden Him, but also on grounds of honour 
and justice; and St. Benedict urges self-interest as well. Fundamentally 
God is nothing but goodness; it is we who make Him severe, when we 
provoke Him by our faults : " In Himself most good, in relation to us 
He is just," says Tertullian. If we betray God, as our Father He will 
disinherit us, as our master He will punish us; and this in exact propor 
tion to the degree in which His love has been despised and His confidence 
abused. We must understand the words properly and not make St. 
Benedict say that God in His punishment makes two distinct grades, 
separable and capable of being superimposed one on the other, as though 
He sometimes merely disinherits, and at others, if infidelity be great, 
chastises with positive punishments; for there is no case in which a soul, 
which has been really disinherited by its own fault, does not suffer. 
Our Holy Father s purpose is to describe the two inseparable pains of 
eternity: not only the pain of loss, which deprives rebellious children 
of their heavenly heritage, that is of God; but also the pain of sense, 
whereby the fire torments those utterly evil servants " who have 
refused to follow Him to glory." 

So man must either reign for ever with Christ or suffer for ever with 
the devils. St. Benedict puts this dread alternative before us several 
times in the course of the Prologue ; and he sets forth the monastic life 
as the most direct and sure road to attain to God. In his eyes, to 
advance valiantly towards the full realization of one s baptism and the 
perfection of the supernatural life (he deals with nothing else in the 
Prologue) is both the most efficacious procedure for the escaping of 
everlasting death, and the most logical procedure, and that most glorious 
for God and for us. He makes no mistake; he knows that a man is free 
to enter or not to enter the monastic state, and that, for many of those 
whom his invitation will reach, the monastic life is not indispensable 
either for amendment of life or for perseverance in good; he does not 
confuse the precepts and the counsels; and yet we may say that he 
simplifies the problem. We can never sufficiently study the precise 
and clear terms in which the matter is stated. 

Exsurgamus ergo tandem aliquando, Let us then at length arise, since the 

excitante nos Scriptura, ac dicente: Scripture stirs us up, saying: "It is 

Hor a est jam nos de somno surgere. Et time now for us to rise from sleep." 

apertis oculis nostris ad deificum lumen, And our eyes being open to the deifying 

attonitis auribus audiamus divina quoti- light, let us hear with wondering ears 

die clamans quid nos admoneat vox, what the Divine Voice admonishes us, 

dicens: Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis, daily crying out: " To-day if ye shall 

Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

nolite obdurare corda vestra. Et iterum : hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 
Qui babet aures audiendi, audiat quid And again, " He that hath ears to hear, 
Spiritus dicat Ecclesiis. Et quid dicit ? let him hear what the Spirit saith to 
VfniUy filii, audite me: timorem Domini the Churches." And what says He ? 
doc f bo vos. C write, dum lumen vitce " Come, my children, hearken to me, 
babttis, ne tenebra mortis vos compre- I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 
hcndant. Run while ye have the light of life, 

lest the darkness of death seize hold 

of you." 

The preliminaries being settled, we must now begin, says St. Benedict, 
and put our hands resolutely to the work. Whatever may be our age, 
above all if we are past the prime of life and moving downwards towards 
the end, it is time, the appointed time, God s hour and the hour of 
grace. Too long have we been plunged in sleep, 1 in deep sleep, perhaps 
in a sleep troubled and crossed by painful dreams. Sleep is not death, 
but neither is it life; it is life in abeyance, latent and inactive. Want of 
consideration, or familiarity, have dulled the outlines of supernatural 
realities. We sleep, yet we are not happy. Let us rise then now, at the 
summons of the voice which wakens us, the voice of God Himself and 
not merely of our Holy Father St. Benedict. God invites us by His 
Scriptures; for there we have indeed the words of God, addressed 
individually to each of us; it is hard to see how the baptized soul can 
resist such teaching made especially for it. We shall find in the Rule 
that the sacred Scripture has always a decisive force. " It is now the 
hour to rise from sleep " : the liturgy of Advent uses this sentence of 
the Apostle (Rom. xiii. u), nor is it ever unseasonable throughout the 
continual advent of our lives. 

We must open our eyes; for it is thus that one begins to shake off 
sleep and recover consciousness. We must open them to " the deifying 
light," which, phrase may be understood of the Scriptures, " Thy word is 
a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths " (Ps. cxviii. 105), or of faith, 
or better of Our Lord Himself, the true Light who walks before us 
and guides us : " He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but 
shall have the light of life " (John viii. 12). We must also hearken 
and give ear to a voice powerful at once and sweet " with wondering 
ears." 2 For inattention is the devil s strongest ally; and though we are 
ever enveloped by the divine light, and though God speaks to us every 
moment, we remain blind and deaf, sluggish and careless of the truth. 
Let us break through the shackles of habit, let us rouse our interest, 
stimulate our curiosity, for we are told by the wise men of old, and it is 
very true, that wonder or surprise is the origin of philosophical enquiry. 
Every morning, at the beginning of the Office, the voice of Our 
Lord cries 3 appealingly to us: "To-day, if you should hear my call, 

1 Cf. CASS., Conlat., III., iv. 
D. BUTLER compares QUINTUS CURTIUS, History of Alexander, bk. VIII., 4. 

3 In Chapter VII. also St. Benedict says, "the Scripture cries to us." The same 
expression is found in ST. CJESARIUS, Sermon CCLXIII.. 4, in the appendix to the 
Sermons of St. Augustine (P.L., XXXIX,, 2233). 

Prologue 9 

harden not your hearts (Ps. xciv. 8). We are essentially laggards and 
loiterers. " To-day?" we say. " What you ask me to abandon is so 
attractive. Suppose I wait till to-morrow. Of course I shall be wise 

and mortified to-morrow " And so our evil habit grows stronger, 

for every act leaves its trace on our character, and we lose power every 
day that we delay. Will not conversion be harder to-morrow ? ^ 

" He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to 
the Churches " (Matt. xi. 15; Apoc. ii. 7). The call is more emphatic: 
it is addressed to our understanding, to our self-esteem, to a certain 
legitimate pride. The Spirit of God bids the soul that He visits to come 
simply and learn in His school, for He is both Teacher and Father. ^ He 
will teach the soul to fear God that is to say, to live in God s sight 
with filial respect and love (Ps. xxxiii. 12). St. Benedict adds to this 
the solemn warning of Our Lord in St. John s gospel (xn. 35) : Hasten 
to come to God, while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of 
death seize hold of you." 1 The " to-day " of which he speaks does not 
extend beyond the present life, and who can tell whether to-morrow 
is yours ? So while God speaks to you and gives you light, while We 
consents to walk before you, follow Him and accept His lead: otherwis. 
the star that guides you will disappear. 2 

Et qu*rens Dominus in multitu- And the Lord, seeking His own 
dine populi, cui h*c clamat, operarium workmanin the multitude of tnepeopie 
suiim, iterum dicit : Quis est homo, qui to whom He thus cries out says again : 
vult vitam, et cupit Mere dies bonos ? "Who is the man that will have life 
Quod si tu audiens respondeas: Ego, and desires to see good days ? ^ And 
dicit tibi Deus: Si vis habere veram et if you, hearing Him, answer > A * m 
perpetuam vitam, prohibe linguam tuam he," God says to you: "If thou wilt 
a malo, et labia tua ne loquantur dolum. have true and everlasting lite, keep tny 
Diverts a malo, et fac bonum; inquire tongue from evil and thy lips that they 
pacem et scquere earn. Et cum haec speak no guile. Turn from evil, and 
feceritis, oculi mei super vos, et aures do good: seek peace and pursue it. An 
meae ad preces vestras. Et antequam when you have done these things, my 
me invocetis, dicam : Ecce adsum. eyes will be upon you, and my ears will 

be open to your prayers; and beto 
you call upon me, I will say unto you, 
Behold, I am here." 

So far our souls have come into touch with our Holy Father; they 
have prayed with him, they have been moved by fear and roused by the 

1 St. Benedict does not always cite Scripture word for word, whether purposely 
or because he quotes from memory. Also he often uses a version other than our \ ulgate. 
ST. CJESARIUS read the beginning of this text in much the same way as St. Benec 
Curramus dum lucem vita habemus (P-L., XXXIX., 2230). 

a Our Holy Father returns presently to Ps. xxxiii., from which he selects and c om- 
ments on verses 12, 13, 14, 1 5, 16. He has in mind also ST. AUGUSTINE S second Enarratto 
on this psalm; and from audiamus divina ... to quid dulcius . ^. . he scarcely does 
more than quote it almost textually (nos. 16-20, 9. P.L., XXXVI., 317-3*95 3*3)- 
See also the Enarratio on Ps. cxliii. (no. 9. P.L., XXX VI I., 1862); the combination 
of the two passages of Isaias, Ixv. 24 and Iviii. 9, that we meet presently in St. Benedict, 
is certainly inspired by St. Augustine. 

We must abandon as a source of this passage the PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM brought forward 
in the Revue B n dictinc, 1894, pp. 385^. 

io Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

divine words of the Scripture, but his call yet lacks something more 
personal, more decisive, and more dramatic. The householder, the 
owner of the vineyard (Matt. xx. 1-16), went down himself to the 
market-place to hire labourers, and the appeal which He makes to the 
whole Christian people is really addressed to each one, for He wishes to 
make a compact with each individual soul. In this we have a true 
picture of the relatioa of the soul to God: every soul is a labourer and 
God is one too. God, who has need of nothing, has yet willed the 
manifestation of His attributes by means of the natural order, but 
especially by means of the supernatural order. The Incarnation and 
Redemption represent God s great effort. To this He devoted Himself, 
but He did not consent to work alone. He willed to associate with 
Himself fellow-workers, and He deliberately left His work unfinished, 
knowing that it would be a joy to us to work after Him and with 
Him, and to spend our efforts there where He spent His blood 
(i Cor. iii. 9; Col. i. 24). 

Moreover, the invitation promises a reward: " Who is the man that 
will have life, and desires to see good days ?" (Ps. xxxiii. 13). God 
does not disdain to engage our self-interest, nor to use our primary and 
fundamental love of happiness. Of course His glory and our happiness 
are intimately connected. Now when a man is offered happiness and 
life, he never refuses: " Does not each one of you answer, I ?" says 
St. Augustine. " I am the man, O Lord, I wish it fervently." 
" But we must not have any misunderstanding," adds Our Lord, and 
for Him St. Benedict proceeds to state accurately the meaning and 
scope of His promise. Our ideal is not the Jewish one of temporal 
prosperity and length of days; we are concerned with the true and full 
life, the life of eternity. This life of eternity begins here below in the 
life of grace, and according to St. Benedict we shall know " good days." 
So if there were no life but the present, should we not be the happiest 
of men ? But without enlarging on the reward reserved for his labourer, 
St. Benedict, first briefly and then at greater length, indicates the 
conditions which he must accept. 

Certain things have to be eliminated. " Keep thy tongue from 
evil . . ." (Ps. xxxiii. 14-15). Does this mean that we must avoid 
lying and deceit properly so called ? Certainly it does. But we 
may give the words of the Old Testament a value relative to the new 
dispensation and consequently a wider scope. There is sometimes a 
lie of act implied in our whole life, a practical negation of our faith, 
a secret duality: charity summons us, but egoism prevails; we are 
divided and drawn in opposite directions, and too often the lower 
attraction prevails. We receive Holy Communion every morning, but 
we remain ourselves. If we really wish for life, we must aim at unity 
of purpose and true loyalty. 

" Turn from evil." Let us take our souls in our hands and reso 
lutely separate ourselves from all that is evil. To avoid or turn aside 
from it is not enough; we must create between ourselves and evil a 

Prologue 1 1 

wide zone which neither we nor evil can cross; we must pronounce 
a sentence of eternal banishment against it. Let us not be like those 
men whom St. Francis de Sales compares to sick folk whose doctor 
has forbidden them melon under pain of death; they abstain indeed 
from the forbidden fruit, but they " brood on their deprivation and 
talk about melons and bargain for a little indulgence; they insist on 
smelling them at least and count those fortunate who may eat them." 1 

" And do good." This is the positive side of our programme. This 
is a simple thought, so simple that it seems childish, yet it is one which 
is frequently overlooked. Too many people spend all their intelligence 
and strength in avoiding the snares with which the path of life is strewn; 
some souls are always stuck, always worried by the difficulties they meet, 
always anxious about little flecks of dust; their energy is devoted to 
lamentation or exhausted in continual self-consideration. Undoubt 
edly a delicate conscience is a good thing, but it is dangerous to think 
too much of oneself, to magnify one s importance; of course we must 
know ourselves, but it is above all necessary to know God. At bottom, 
the purpose of our life is not merely to avoid sin and negation, but 
rather positively to exist, to do good, to reach God. 

" Seek peace." The quotation of Psalm xxxiii. was not made 
by accident and is not continued mechanically. When unity, harmony, 
and order have been re-established in us, thanks to that loyalty of which 
we spoke above : when the disagreement with God, with our brethren, 
and with ourselves has ceased, and this much is finally won and settled, 
then we have peace, " the tranquillity of order." Peace is not sloth nor 
a false lack of interest; it is the attitude which is spontaneously assumed 
by the soul when it is united to God by charity. Peace, like joy, is 
not exactly a virtue, but is the fruit of the highest of virtues, for it is 
the daughter of charity. 2 Search for it in your house, says Our Lord, 
as for a hidden treasure; pursue it, if there be need. Sometimes it will 
appear to flee from us, but we must not be discouraged; we must not 
be irritated by its delay, for it may be that this itself is only our own 
delay with ourselves. And there is never any reason to leave this peace ; 
no events, no sufferings, no faults even should cause us to do so; for 
anxiety does not correct mistakes and repentance does not imply 
trouble. St. Paul regards peace as a sort of cloister of the spirit, which 
keeps our soul near to God: " And may the peace of God which passeth 
all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus " (Phil. iv. 
7). Let us remember that it is at once the recompense, fruit, measure, 
and cause of our virtue; and everyone knows that it has become the 
motto of the Benedictine Order. 

The psalm is continued, but verse 16 is alluded to without being 
formally quoted. After our soul has been turned in this way towards 
God, and has attained peace, then the benevolent regard of Our Lord 
rests on it and His ear is always open to our prayers ; He takes pleasure 
i n this beauty which the light of His eyes has created. Then there is 

1 Introduction to the Devout Life, Part I., chap. vii. 

2 Cf. S. Tb., II.-IL, q. xxix., De Pace. 


Commentary on the Rule oj Sf. Benedict 

the closest union: " He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit " (i Cor. 
vi. 17). Our prayer will be still in the heart, we shall not have opened 
our lips, before the Lord will say: " Lo, I am here." 

Quid dulcius nobis hac voce Domini 
invitantisnos, fratres charissimi ? Ecce 
pietate sua demonstrat nobis Dominus 
viam vitas. Succinctis ergo fide vel 
observantia bonorum actuum lumbis 

nostris, per ducatum Evangelii perga- 
mus itinera ejus, ut mereamur eum qui 
nos vocavit, in regno suo videre. 

What can be sweeter to us, dearest 
brethren, than this voice of the Lord 
inviting us ? Behold in His loving- 
kindness the Lord shows unto us the 
way of life. Having our loins, there 
fore, girded with faith and the per 
formance of good works, let us walk 
in His paths by the guidance of the 
Gospel, that we may deserve to see 
Him who has called us in His kingdom. 

Our Holy Father allows an exclamation of joy to escape him. See, 
my beloved brethren, he cries, is there anything in the world could 
be more tender, more sweet, than this invitation of Our Lord, or 
couched in such terms ? It is God Himself, who in His loving-kindness 
calls to life and shows us the road. Up then, let us start our pilgrimage 
to God, let us walk quickly, with garment tucked up so that its folds 
may not beat round our legs and hinder us, but that we may have all 
our vigour: " Let your loins be girt and lamps burning in your hands " 
(Luke xxii. 35). Our girdle is faith, a practical faith which means the 
doing of good works and the habit of them. " And justice shall be 
the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his reins " (Isa. xi. 5). Led 
and directed by the precepts of the Gospel, 1 let us pass every stage 
of the journey to God unto the end, so that we may deserve to see Him 
who has called us in His kingdom. 2 

In cujus regni tabernaculo si volu- 
mus habitare, nisi illuc bonis actibus 
currendo, minime pervenitur. Sed 
interrogemus cum Propheta Dominum, 
dicentes ei : Domine, quis habitabit in 
tabernaculo tuo, aut quis requiescet in 
monte sancto tuo ? Post hanc interroga- 
tionem, fratres, audiamus Dominum 
respondentem, et ostendentem nobis 
viam ipsius tabernaculi, ac dicentem: 
Qui ingreditur sine macula, et operatur 
justitiam; qui loquitur veritatem in 
corde suo; qui non egit dolum in lingua 

sua; qui non fecit proximo suo malum, et 
opprobrium non accepit adversus proxi- 
mum suum. 

And if we wish to dwell in the taber 
nacle of His kingdom, we shall by no 
means reach it unless we run thither 
by our good deeds. But let us ask the 
Lord with the prophet, saying to Him : 
" Lord, who shall dwell in thy taber 
nacle, or who shall rest upon thy holy 
hill ?" After this question, brethren, 
let us hear the Lord answering, and 
showing to us the way to His taber 
nacle, and saying: " He that walks 
without stain and works justice: he 
that speaks truth in his heart, that 
has not done guile with his tongue: 
he that has done no evil to his neigh 
bour, and has not taken up a reproach 

against his neighbour." 

1 Instead of the expression per ducatum Evangelit, the meaning of which seemed 
rather vague, the most ancient manuscripts (we do not say the best, cf. Introduction) 
read: et calceatis in pr&paratione Evangelii pads pedibits, pergamus . . ., a reminiscence 
of chap. vi. of Ephesians (verse 15; observe that in verse 14 the Apostle bids us have our 
loins girt: it has been thought that St. Benedict was quoting these two verses loosely). 

2 Perhaps the best reading is: eum qui nos vocavit in regnum suum videre, a quotation 
of i Thess. ii. 12. 

Prologue 1 3 

So you wish sincerely to walk to the sanctuary of God, our King, 
and to abide there with Him for all eternity ? The society of God, 
of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of Our Lady, of the angels and saints, attracts 
you ? Since then you know the end and have willed it, you must now 
learn the means which lead to it. " We shall by no means reach it 
unless we run thither by our good deeds." St. Benedict has said this 
before, but he insists on it and strives to put this point in the clearest 
possible light. A privileged state does not sanctify us, nor will grace 
secure our salvation of itself. It would be exceedingly rash to say to 
oneself: " I have made my profession, I am in healthy surroundings, 
I understand the supernatural life, I can speak of it on occasion with 
fluency and precision, I experience in my relations with God certain 
favours which tell me that I am in the higher ways. My toils there 
fore are over." No, there must be action, we must move unceasingly, 
we must run. Acts are the offspring of our life, they continue it, they 
develop it, and our life exists only for them: for an act is the ultimate 
term of all living energy. Let us recall the history of the fig-tree in 
the Gospel, which did not lack leaves, but was cursed and withered on 
the spot, because the fruit that is to say, acts was wanting. It may be 
objected that we are often told that our sanctification does not come 
from ourselves and that we have to let God work. Let us understand 
the matter: there is the preliminary work of clearing the ground, there 
is the constructive work, and there is the completion and perfection of 
the work, and in all of these is God s action exercised, especially in the 
last; but we are never dispensed from acting, and the two first stages 
are especially ours. 

If we want further information, we should rather go to Our Lord 
and with the prophet put to Him the question with which the fourteenth 
psalm opens. For us Christians its subject is the New Jerusalem and the 
true temple of God: " Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and 
he will dwell with them " (Apoc. xxi. 3). God answers us in the 
same psalm and traces for us the way to His holy place. St. Benedict 
confines himself to quoting verses 2 and 3, of which the meaning is quite 
clear. All is embraced in this rapid summary: intention, word, fulfil 
ment, interior and exterior work; so that we have a threefold preparation 
of soul in purity, uprightness, and justice. 

Qui malignum diabolum aliqua He that has brought the malignant 
suadentem sibi, cum ipsa suasione sua evil one to naught, casting him out 
a conspectibus cordis sui respuens, of his heart with all his suggestions, 
deduxit ad nihilum, et parvulos cogi- and has taken his bad thoughts, while 
tatus ejus tenuit, et allisit ad Christum, they were yet young, and dashed them 

down upon Christ. 

Our Holy Father, from this on, paraphrases broadly the rest of the 
psalm, and first the first part of the fourth verse: "In his sight the 
malignant is brought to nothing." The literal sense refers to the 
attitude which the man who wishes to go to God must adopt in 
dealing with the good and the wicked: he disdains the wicked and 

14 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

reserves all his esteem for the good: " He glorifies those who fear God." 
But St. Benedict has understood the passage of the attitude which he 
who seeks God must take up in the face of the malignant one, the devil, 1 
and all his teaching is full of a deep wisdom. 

It is natural and prudent to examine rigorously and to look well in 
the face the dispositions, emotions, and affections which follow one 
another in us, and to question them: "What are you ? Whence do 
you come ? What have you come to do with me ? What are the 
ultimate consequences to which you will lead me ?" A wise man does 
not open his door to every visitor, nor do we let the first comer into the 
bosom of the family. If we can recognize the real source of certain 
treacherous and misleading tendencies, the true author of certain secret 
impulses, then we are safe. 

Once the diabolical suggestion has been recognized and the suggestor 
unmasked, St. Benedict wants us, at once and resolutely, to " drive 
both one and the other from our hearts and to give them no considera 
tion." Temptation takes various forms. We should always fight it 
with humility and reliance on the help of God; but often the best way 
to get rid of it is to neglect and despise it. There are temptations which 
are merely silly, surprises or mere physiological effects : let us pass them 
by. It is a case for the application of the precept: " Salute no one by 
the way." For not only must one not worry about them, one must 
not even resist or cramp oneself in a useless struggle, nor fight, nor protest 
spasmodically, nor make any alteration in one s life. 

However, there are cases when our Holy Father asks us to employ 
different tactics; when, for example, the temptation is violent or pro 
longed, and above all when it is a question of our besetting temptation, 
some peculiar habitual temptation which has a special affinity with our 
character, a temptation which has assailed us in childhood, has followed 
us like an ever-present menace or evil spirit, which has grown up with 
us and grown old with us, and which we find still full of life. If we 
do not wish to succumb inevitably, we must collect all the energy and 
insight that we have, and vigorously grasping these hellish suggestions, 
these children of Babylon, as though spontaneously and without 
reflection, dash them at once on the rock, which is Christ (i Cor. x. 4). 
We must arm ourselves with faith, charity, and prayer, make an appeal 
to Our Lord and so raise our souls into the region of peace. St. Benedict 
quotes, in its allegorical sense like many of the Fathers, 2 the last verse 

1 CASSIODORUS, in his Exposition of this psalm (P.L., LXX., no), gives exactly the 
same sense to verse 8 as St. Benedict. Farther on, after having spoken of the courageous 
man qui mundi vitia cum suo auctore prostravit, he adds these words, which again recall 
another passage of the end of the Prologue: Sed precetnur jugiter omnipotentiam ejus, 
ut qui talia per nosmetipsos implere non possumus qua jussa sunt, ejus ditati munere jacia- 
mus (ibid., in). We notice the connection for the sake of those interested in the 
question of the relation of Cassiodorus to St. Benedict. 

2 ORIGEN, Contra Celsum, 1. VII., 22. P.<?., XI., 1453. 
ST. HILARY, Tract., in Ps. cxxxvi. 14. P.L., IX., 784. 
ST. AMBROSE, De pcenit., II., 106. P.L., XVI., 523. 

Prologue 1 5 

of Psalm cxxxvi. : " Blessed is he that shall take and dash thy little 
ones against the rock." 

Qui timentes Dominum, de bona These are they who, fearing the 

observantia sua non se reddunt elatos, Lord, are not puffed up with their 

sed ipsa in se bona, non a se posse, sed own good works, but, knowing that 

a Domino fieri existimantes, operantem the good which is in them comes not 

in se Dominum magnificant, illud cum from themselves but from the Lord, 

Propheta dicentes: Non nobis, Domine, magnify the Lord who works in them, 

non nobis, sed, nomini tuo da gloriam. saying with the prophet: "Not unto 

Sicut nee Paulus Apostolus de pradi- us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto 

catione sua sibi aliquid imputavit, thy name give the glory." So the 

dicens: Gratia Dei sum id, quod sum. Et Apostle Paul imputed nothing of his 

iterum ipse dicit: Qui gloriatur, in preaching to himself, but said: "By 

Domino glorietur. the grace of God I am what I am." 

And again he says: " He that glorieth, 
let him glory in the Lord." 

Though our text of Psalm xiv. means " the just man honours 
those who fear God," St. Benedict s had " limentes autem Dominum 
magnificant " i.e., " those who fear God give him glory," and these 
words furnish him with the application which follows. 

We have to do good and repel evil; and when we have fulfilled these 
two duties, we must, under pain of spoiling all, guard against vain self- 
complacency. The true servants of God, those who fear the severity 
of His judgements on the proud, strive to attribute to Him the causality 
and so to speak the responsibility for their virtue. They glorify God 
in recognizing that nothing comes to them of their own power : neither 
the idea, nor the resolution, nor the accomplishment of good. Un 
doubtedly the act is both ours and His, indivisibly, and our merits are 
real; but the action of God has such priority, efficaciousness, and 
sovereignty, that He alone is to be credited with our sanctification: 
" But knowing that the good that is in them comes not from themselves 
but from the Lord, they magnify the Lord who works in them." 1 The 
hundred and thirteenth psalm proclaims this truth aloud; and that 
great worker St. Paul did not attribute to himself any of his apostolic 
success (i Cor. xv. 10), reminding us that every Christian could glory 
in naught but in the Lord (2 Cor. x. 17). We have already heard St. 
Benedict expressing his view on these nice questions of grace; here again 
his theology is sound and exact. 

There would be danger in investigating with curiosity and contem 
plating unceasingly the good that is in us, but we must know how to 
recognize it tranquilly. Any serious examination of conscience should 
be arranged in two columns : the evil for which we alone are responsible 
and the good which is the work of God in us. God loves to be thanked, 

ST. JEROME, Epist. XXII., 6. P.L., XXII., 398. Commentariolum in Ps. cxxxvi., 
apud Anecdota Maredsolana, vol. III., P. i., p. 94. 

ST . AUGUSTINE, Enarr. in Ps. cxxxvi. 21. P.L., XXXVII., 1773-1774- 

CASSIAX, Inst., VI., xiii. 

1 Cf. CASS., /., XII., xvi. Conlat., III., xv. 

1 6 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

and we can only give thanks for a benefit which we know and which 
we allow ourselves to contemplate. 

Unde et Dominus in Evangelic ait : Hence also the Lord says in the 

Qui audit verba mea bcec, et facit ea, Gospel: " He that heareth these words 

similabo eum viro sapienti, qui <zdifi- of mine and doeth them, is like a wise 

cavit domum suam supra petram: venerunt man who built his house upon a rock; 

flumina, flaverunt venti^ et impegerunt the floods came, the winds blew, and 

in domum illam, et non cecidit: fundata beat upon that house, and it fell not, 

enim erat supra petram. because it was founded upon a rock." 

Omitting some words of the psalm 1 St. Benedict passes at once to 
those which end it : " He that doth these things shall not be moved for 
ever." The just man shall not fall, he shall not be cheated of his hope, 
he shall reach the temple of God where he has longed to be. But, 
since this conclusion was somewhat abrupt, St. Benedict has thought 
fit to elucidate it with a text taken from the seventh chapter of St. 
Matthew, where Our Lord describes the security of the man who hears 
and fulfils His words, of the wise man who erects the edifice of his 
perfection upon a strong and unshakable foundation. Again Christ 
is the rock, and to attach ourselves to Him by faith, to love Him before 
all else, makes us partake of His strength and His eternal stability. 

A house so built can withstand all assaults. They will not be 
wanting in a conscientious spiritual life, or in a community which wishes 
to keep its monastic faith pure and whole. Of all sorts they are, and 
from all directions ; there is rain from heaven 2 and the winds of the air, 
and streams and torrents of the earth. So a community may experience 
trials from heaven, persecutions from the powers of this world, blasts 
which drive them over the seas, and yet take no harm. "And it fell 
not: because it was founded on a rock." 

Haec complens Dominus expectat And the Lord in fulfilment of these 
quotidie his suis sanctis monitis factis His words is waiting daily for us to 
nos respondere debere. Ideo nobis respond by our deeds to His holy 
propter emendationem malorum, hujus admonitions. Therefore are the days 
dies vitae ad inducias relaxantur, dicente of our life lengthened for the amend- 
Apostolo: An nescis, quia patientia Dei ment of our evil ways, as says the 
ad paenitentiam te adducit ? Nam pius Apostle: " Knowest thou not that the 
Dominus dicit: Nolo mortem peccatoris, patience of God is leading thee to 
sed ut convertatur, et vivat. Cum ergo repentance ?" For the merciful Lord 
interrogassemus Dominum, fratres, de says: " I will not the death of a sinner, 
habitatore tabernaculi ejus, audivimus but that he should be converted and 
habitandi praeceptum: sed si com- live." Since then, brethren, we have 
pleamus habitatoris officium, erimus asked of the Lord who is to inhabit 
haeredes regni ccelorum. His temple, we have heard His com 

mands to those who are to dwell there: 
and if we fulfil those duties, we shall 
be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. 

1 ST. AUGUSTINE (Enarr. in Ps. xiv. 4. P.L., XXXVI., 144) also distinguishes 
this same portion of the psalm, and says that it is addressed to beginners in the spiritual 
life: Sicut ilia superior a pertinent ad perfectos, ita ea qua mine dicturus est, pertinent ad 

2 Mentioned by the Gospel, but omitted by St. Benedict. 

Prologue 1 7 

The words hcec complens have been variously translated, as to 
complete or to put the finishing touch to His kindness, or better perhaps 
thus i 1 Our Lord having invited us and having showed us the goal and 
marked out the path, and having answered the question we addressed 
to Him with the psalmist concerning the conditions of admission into 
His eternal tabernacle, now waits for our reply. He waits always, 
with divine patience, for us to set about the surrender of ourselves 
by our deeds to His sacred admonitions. 

Ideo, " therefore," since God agrees to wait, our life on this 
earth has the character of a truce, of a delay; the duration of our life 
is a space of leisure contrived for us by God that we may at last amend. 
This is what St. Paul teaches; and in the prophecy of Ezechiel (xviii. 23) 
God proclaims His purpose of mercy and tenderness : He has no interest 
in our failure or damnation, and He desires our welfare more ardently 
than we do ourselves. Is it not then to be ignorant of the very meaning 
of life, if we spend it in endless delays, delays the more dangerous because 
the thread of life may be snapped suddenly ? 

So St. Benedict concludes thus: we have received from the mouth 
of God Himself a complete answer to all that it was to our interest 
to know; we have been told that we may some day dwell in His kingdom, 
whither we are called and where our coming is awaited, on condition that 
we fulfil, from this on, the duty of one who wishes to dwell there; 
for no one can enter into eternal life without doing the works and ful 
filling the duties of a true citizen of eternity: "We have heard His 
commands to those who are to dwell there : but we must fulfil the duties 
of true dwellers." Sfd si corrfpleamus habitatoris officium. 2 

Ergo praeparanda sunt corda et Our hearts, therefore, and our bodies 

corpora nostra sanctae praeceptorum must be made ready to fight under 

obedientiae militatura; et quod minus the holy obedience of His commands; 

habet in nobis natura possibile, roge- and let us ask God to supply by the 

mus Dominum, ut gratiae suae jubeat help of His grace what by nature is 

nobis adjutorium ministrare. Et si hardly possible to us. And if we 

fugientes gehennae poenas ad vitam would arrive at eternal life, escaping 

perpetuam volumus pervenire, dum the pains of hell, then while there 

adhuc vacat, et in hoc corpore sumus, i s yet time, while we are still in the 

et haec omnia per hanc lucis viam vacat flesh, and are able to fulfil all these 

implere, currendum et agendum est things by the light which is given us 

modo, quod in perpetuum nobis expe- we must hasten to do now what will 

diat. profit us for all eternity. 

This concluding portion of the Prologue seems directly designed 
to reassure and encourage souls who shrink from the holy demands of the 

1 Observe that immediately after the Sermon on the Mount, the conclusion of 
which St. Benedict has just cited, the evangelist added: Cum consummasset Jesus verba 
bac . . . (Matt. vii. 28). 

2 A scribe, doubtless surprised at this suspended and somewhat elliptical phrase, 
regarded it as the protasis of a conditional sentence nnd completed it with the somewhat 
frigid gloss: erimus h&redes regni calorum. And with these words the Prologue ends 
in the three most ancient manuscripts; perhaps they had as their common source a 
codex in which the last page of the Prologue was lacking. (See the Introduction ) 

1 8 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

religious life, and who, when their first fervour has gone and the enthu 
siasm of their first days evaporated, are tempted to turn back towards 
the world. If it is true that our Holy Father wrote this page in the 
last days of his life, he had had time to receive a goodly number of 
postulants, and among them some of those soft natures, over-sensitive 
and lacking vitality, whose good will is real, but short-lived. St. Benedict 
appeals to them with the sursum corda which goes before sacrifice. 1 

The whole man has to take the field; first the heart, that is the secret 
dwelling and central source of all great thoughts and strong resolutions, 
and then the body itself, which must be trained by faithful observance. 
Otherwise monks will be in danger of resembling painted or stage 
soldiers, who ever threaten to strike or to march but never either strike 
or march. The monastic life is in fact a training camp, and before joining 
it it is better to be sure that you are determined. But, although no 
one can at his pleasure have literary genius or add an inch to his stature, 
in the moral order we may win any power or any stature that we wish. 
And we are not asked for muscular effort, but are simply told to submit 
to holy obedience and to exercise ourselves in the perfect fulfilment of 
a spiritual law. Can you not keep silence ? Why, women keep it, and 
well. Can you not love mortification ? Even children practise it. Can 
you not do what women and children do ? 

Suppose there is some little discord of temperament, or even, it 
may be, of nature between you and the monastic law. Tell God about 
it. He will tell His grace and bid it come to your aid, and His grace 
will make possible for you what nature led you to regard as " hardly 
possible." St. Benedict s phrase here is touched with gentle humour. 

Moreover, adds St. Benedict, we must be brave. You wish to avoid 
hell ? Yes. You wish to get to heaven ? Of course. Well, says he, 
let me tell you again that life is short, and that it is a truce. We were 
once enemies of God, and fortunately we were not then surprised by 
death. Let us make haste, while there is yet time, to do something 
for God; currendum et agendum est ; let us make haste to accomplish, by 
the light of this life, 2 all the good works that we shall in heaven congratu 
late ourselves on having done. What does St. Paul think now of his 
scourgings, or St. Lawrence of his gridiron, or St. Benedict of his rolling 
amid the thorns, or St. Benedict Labre of his poverty ? It is enough 
to cut short our procrastination, if we but ponder for an instant this 
weighty advice of our Holy Father. 

Constituenda est ergo a nobis We have, therefore, to establish a 

Dominici schola servitii ; in qua institu- school of the Lord s service, in the 

tione nihil asperum nihilque grave nos institution of which we hope to order 

constituturos speramus. nothing that is harsh or rigorous. 

At the same time as he strengthens and stimulates souls, St. Benedict 
is led to define the special form of the religious life which he has just 

1 These words echo the first paragraphs of the Prologue. 

2 We should read vitam, which is the only authoritative reading. 

Prologue 1 9 

offered them in the Lord s name; hitherto he had limited himself to 
asking whether they were ready for the full Christian life. So he 
makes easy the transition to his enunciation of the monastic rule. 

See then, he says, what I want to do, what I propose to establish 
with the help of your generosity: "a school of the Lord s service." 
We must always hold fast to this definition of our life. A monastery 
is not a club, nor a house of retreat, nor an appendage to the universities. 
Doubtless it is a place of leisure, of liberty, and of repose (and that is the 
original sense of the word "school," from the Greek cr^oX?;); but this 
leisure has for its object the study of the things of God, and the training 
and education of His soldiers, His guard of honour. The ancients gave 
the name of " school," says Dom Calmet, to the places where were 
learnt literature, the sciences, the fine arts, and military exercises; 
also to the companies employed for the defence of the palace, or the 
person of a prince, and to the places in which they lodged and trained. 
It is now n>ot unlikely that our Holy Father had in mind the schola or 
place of meeting of the Roman colleges or associations. 1 

So the monastic life is the " school of the Lord s service," the school 
where one learns to serve Him, where one is trained without cessation, 
in a novitiate which will last the whole of life. At bottom, St. Benedict 
has no other design than that of God Himself: " For the Father also 
seeketh such as will adore him in spirit and in truth." To serve God 
is to adore God. The service of God is made up of two elements: 
worship or the exercise of the virtue of religion, and since the value 
of worship depends upon the value of the worshipper personal sancti- 
fication by fidelity to the law of God and the union of our wills with His. 
This worship is " in spirit," since it comes from the interior man; it 
is " in truth," since no faculty of a man is excepted; no work of charity, 
no study may escape it; nor can there be any contrariety in act or 
intention. And, to conclude, this worship is collective, social, and 

We have good hope, says St. Benedict, that this programme will 
contain nothing terrible. We need have no fear: the Rule is wise and 
therein is nothing disagreeable, harsh, or intolerable. It is to a marked 
degree gentler, both in its preliminary requirements and in its laws, 
than the monastic codes of the East; and our Holy Father, in his perfect 
discretion and in his love for souls, has allowed himself to appear some 
what relaxed. But the Benedictine life does not consist essentially 
in a dying, a merciless mortification, nor can it be adequately defined 
as a life of penance or violent asceticism. Perhaps St. Benedict here 
veils too much the austerity of his Rule. He does not want to frighten 
anyone, and that is a good intention enough; but will he not contradict 
himself in the fifty-eighth chapter: "Let there be set before him all 
the hard and rugged ways by which we walk towards God"? The 

1 C/. G. BOISSIER, La Religion romaine d Augusts aux Antonins, 1. III., chap. iii. 
See on this comparison an interesting note by DOM ROTHENHAUSLIR, Zur Aufnahmeord- 
nung der Regula S. Benedicti (Munster, 1912), p. 37, note 4. 

2o Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

contradiction is not a real one, and all will be explained to a nicety in 
the words which, follow. 

Sed et si quid paululum restrictius, But if anything be somewhat strictly 

dictante asquitatis ratione, propter laid down, according to the dictates 

emendationem vitiorum, vel conser- of equity, for the amendment of vices 

vationem charitatis processerit, non or the preservation of charity, do not 

illico pavore perterritus refugias viam therefore fly in dismay from the way 

salutis, quae non est nisi angusto initio of salvation, whose beginning cannot 

incipienda. Processu vero conversa- but be strait. But as we go forward 

tionis et fidei, dilatato corde, inenarra- in our life and faith, we shall with 

bili dilectionis dulcedine curritur via hearts enlarged and unspeakable sweet- 

mandatorum Dei. . . . ness of love ran in the way of God s 


We are first told affectionately and in measured terms not to be 
surprised if we meet a little mortification and pain on the road that 
leads to God. After all, there is something of both on the road to hell; 
we can even say that you may save your life with less suffering than you 
may lose it; and if we had remained in the world we should have learnt 
by experience, perhaps by cruel experience, that it is the true home of 
disappointment, constraint, servitude, ennui. And the suffering that is 
met in the world is often of bad quality, base, impure, degrading, though 
of course it may be both wholesome and profitable, such as that which is 
exacted by apprenticeship to any craft, or any sort of intellectual or 
practical training. Why should we wish to have less to suffer to become 
religious, than to become artisans, or soldiers, or explorers ? No great 
object can be achieved without sacrifice: "Everyone that striveth for 
the mastery refraineth himself from all things. And they indeed that 
they may receive a corruptible crown: but we an incorruptible one" 
(i Cor.ix. 25). 

There are, in the moral order, people who no longer suffer; they are 
those who belong without reserve to the good, whose life is become a 
foretaste of paradise. Our Holy Father describes, farther on, the blessed 
state of these perfect souls. Those who belong to evil, also unreservedly, 
and whose conscience is lulled to sleep and hardened, do not suffer any 
more either: but who would envy them that dreadful calm ? In the 
innumerable multitude of the suffering, there are those who do evil 
without being able to escape remorse, and who thus taste hell in this life; 
and there are those who do good habitually, but are still tempted by 
evil, and of this class the different degrees are as various as are souls. 

It is true that we have said good-bye bravely to the world, and 
burnt our boats, but we have not yet reached the knowledge of God; 
we live as it were suspended between heaven and earth, and we feel the 
void, for does not Nature herself abhor a vacuum ? We must die, die 
that voluntary death which is precious in the sight of God; we must 
reset our type completely and issue, so to say, a new edition of ourselves. 
There can be no building up without this preliminary destroying, and 
that is why our Holy Father lays it down as a principle that the way 

Prologue 2 1 

of salvation " cannot but be strait " in its beginning. " How narrow 
is the gate and strait the way that leadeth to life !" said Our Lord 
(Matt. vii. 14). The gate is narrow and we are large; we suffer from 
moral obesity, from having accumulated habits, customs, likes, from 
having spread ourselves out exteriorly on all sorts of objects and drawn 
in our train a thousand hindrances; but the time has come to renounce 
them; we can only get through by reducing ourselves let us remember 
the fable of the weasel and this reduction must be accompanied with 

The cause of our suffering is single, it is self-will; but its occasions 
and instruments are manifold. In the first place there are the sufferings 
of the Rule, to which our Holy Father makes special allusion here, though 
his words may very well be understood of every monastic pain. Let 
us notice the terms in which he refers to this severity. There will be 
as little of it as possible, paululum. It will not consist of arbitrary 
restrictions and trials, whether left to the initiative of the religious, 
or even to the choice of the legislator or superior; but it will present 
itself spontaneously, processerit, it will only exist because the situation 
evokes it, it will be determined by the nature of things, it will spring 
from the very conditions of monastic life, where, as in every society, 
peace can only reign on condition of partial sacrifices freely consented 
to by every member. Sometimes, too, mortification will have as its 
end the safeguarding of our love of God or our moral life. " According 
to the dictates of equity "; everything is subjected to the law of a wise 

Other sufferings will come from ourselves, from our sickly imagina 
tion. And there are those which we make for one another. The most 
formidable ones come from God. God loves souls as precious pearls 
bought by the blood of His Son: " O Lord who lovest souls " (Wis. xi. 
27). But He does not love their dross and baseness. He wishes to be 
in our souls as a spiritual being in spiritual beings, as a force in a force 
which is submissive and receptive; and He wishes the mover and the 
moved to be fitly proportionate. So, since He intervenes specially 
and personally, immediately and directly, at each stage of our spiritual 
life, He takes on Himself the work of purifying us. He alone can pene 
trate into the depths of our being, and reach its most delicate fibres. 
This work he carries out thoroughly, but in a silent manner, interiorly 
and secretly, as befits our contemplative state. We are face to face 
with God; all distractions have vanished and we are alone in a solitude, 
abandoned in a desert. We win a piercing consciousness of the infinite 
purity of God and so of our unworthiness ; the inexorable light of His 
divinity falls full on our defects, on all the wounds of our soul, and we 
feel without defence against God s punishment. " I am a man that 
see my poverty by the rod of his indignation " (Lam. iii. i). We are 
in purgatory. We suffer the tortures of St. Bartholomew. Like 
Prometheus we are fastened to our rock, and God s vulture comes and 
opens our breast, and there, quietly and ceaselessly, eats away all that 

22 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

displeases Him. And so we are utterly sick, and the soul is sore all over, 
and we readily lay the blame on anyone or anything. 

O blessed sufferings ! These are the toils of the journey to God, 
and, like the real purgatory, these too lead to heaven. " Do not 
therefore fly in dismay from the way of salvation." We must not take 
fright, lose our heads, yield, and flee. Those who bravely accept these 
divine demands; those who, instead of driving away the physician of 
the soul and begging consolation on all sides, keep enough energy and 
self-possession to add some interior mortification and to weed their 
garden, as St. Teresa puts it, these have a future. Those who in tribu 
lation speak tenderly to infinite Justice and through their tears bless Him 
for all, who say with Job : " Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him," 
who accept for years this burning severity, trusting that God will give 
Himself in the end, these are the candidates for sainthood, to these 
will God show Himself loving, both in time and in eternity. But for 
those who do none of these things we must surely weep ; they will never 
know the deepest joy that the creature s heart may feel, the joy of 
Calvary, the joy of being God s unreservedly, as a thing with which He 
does what He will, as a trophy which He carries whither He pleases. 

Whether suffering comes in single spies or in battalions, whether it 
comes from God or from men, it can always be borne, if we continue 
to pray and to be faithful to the duties of our state. Does not time, 
too, that wonderful invention of God s mercy, in some sort wear away 
and attenuate our pains, " that which is momentary and light of our 
tribulation " (2 Cor. iv. 17) ? Even in this world suffering will not last 
for ever. How long then ? So long as God wishes, so long as there 
remains in us something that must be burnt away. Therefore the 
duration of suffering depends in part on our generosity. In the end, 
we accept solitude and enjoy it, things which once seemed so necessary 
to us interest us no more, and we accomplish without effort that which 
at first appeared impossible. Our passions still at times pull at our 
lower nature, but their call becomes daily more and more remote. 
" Trifles of trifles and vanities of vanities, my old mistresses, held me 
back; they caught hold of the garment of my flesh and whispered in 
my ear, Can you let us go ? ... As I heard them, they seemed 
to have shrunk to half their former size. No longer did they meet me 
face to face with open contradiction, but muttered behind my back, 
and, when I moved away, plucked stealthily at my coat to make me look 
back." 1 

" But as we go forward in our life and faith " 2 . . . The habit of 
monastic observance, the habit of close union with God, the mental 
habit of seeing our life in its relation to God, all these empty us and free 

1 S. AUG., Confess., 1. VIII., c. xi. P.L., XXXII., 761. 

2 S. PACK., Reg. cxc. : . . . Probatte fratres conversationis etfidei. But St. Benedict 
is thinking rather of CASSIAN, Conlat., III., xv. Cassian, having recalled the fact after 
St. Paul (Phil. i. 29) that we must suffer with Christ, adds: Hie quoque et initium con 
versationis acfidei nostra et passionum tolerantiam donari nobis a Domino declaravit. 

Prologue 2 3 

us of encumbrance. Our hearts expand and grow to the stature of 
God, and God is at home with us, free of our house and sovereign there. 
And our hearts, on their side, are at ease: " I have run the way of thy 
commandments, when thou didst enlarge my heart " (Ps. cxviii. 32). 
" Thy commandment is exceedingly broad " (ibid. 96). All conflict 
is over, naught is left but a glad docility, a sweet and holy confiscation 
of our will by Our Lord s will, a full surrender to His lead. A spring 
of tenderness has gushed forth from the depths of our desert, and its 
waters of sweetness unspeakable penetrate like a perfume to the very 
confines of its desolation. Such is the gentle touch of God and the effect 
of His substantial love. And so the soul sets out, and runs, and sings. 
Dilatato corde, inenarrabili dilectionis dulcedine curritur via manda- 
torum Dei. 

ut ab ipsius nunquam magisterio So that never departing from His 

discedentes, in ejus doctrina usque ad guidance, but persevering in His teach- 

mortem in monasterio perseverantes, ing in the monastery until death, we 

passionibus Christi per patientiam par- may by patience share in the sufferings 

ticipemus, ut regni ejus mereamur esse of Christ, that we may deserve to be 

consortes. partakers of His kingdom. 

Some editors have thought that this last paragraph was connected 
logically with the word speramus above and have treated the passage 
between as a parenthesis. But there is no reason to take it thus, and this 
long parenthesis seems hardly in accordance with St. Benedict s manner 
of writing. 

The monastery is a school where we learn to worship God; this 
school has one Master and only one : our Holy Father uttered His name 
when he spoke of the " way of the commandments of God." Our 
Lord Jesus Christ is the Master, since God has told us all by means of the 
Word. St. Augustine has pointed out many times the necessity of an 
interior master for either natural or supernatural knowledge. External 
teaching never gives intellectual illumination or grasp; its function is 
limited to throwing out a hint or setting an example, to analyzing, and 
to revealing the hidden connection that exists between premise and 
conclusion; apart from God we have only instructors. When Scripture, 
or the Fathers, or the Church speaks to us, then we have the teaching 
of God. 

The Word of God knows not silence, and the monastic life is set 
before us as a constant attention and docility to this voice that is ever 
speaking. In monasteries more than anywhere else is God pleased to 
communicate His thought, His designs, His beauty. " Mary, sitting 
by the feet of the Lord, heard his word " (Luke x. 39). Every morning 
before receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord we say to Him: " Make 
me always cleave to Thy commandments and never suffer me to be 
separated from Thee " (Due. Jesu Xte, Fili Dei vivi . . . before Due. 
non sum dignus). This perseverance in His teaching will last till death, 
for no one ever deserts God who has once come to know Him. And 

24 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

it will pass beyond death, if it be true that the most perfect form of 
God s magisterium is found in the beatific vision. 

In the next words there is introduced that essential element of the 
Benedictine Rule, stability : first negatively, " never departing," and then 
positively, " persevering in his teaching in the monastery until death." 1 
Presented in this persuasive fashion it cannot frighten souls or seem 
to them a burden or a chain; it is simply fidelity to the blessed retreat 
where we are sure of finding the fulness of life. The first principle, 
the basis, the constituent, and the term of this supernatural life, is union 
with Our Lord Jesus Christ : union with His teaching, union w r ith His 
sufferings, union with His blessedness. So that our Holy Father returns, 
at the end, to the idea of monastic suffering as being the prelude and 
price of our entry into the kingdom of God: "Heirs indeed of God, 
and joint-heirs of Christ; but if we suffer with him, so that we may be 
glorified with him " (Rom. viii. 17). Like stability, so is suffering 
transfigured: it is now no longer aught else than a glorious co-operation 
with " the sufferings of Christ," and the monk who suffers may say 
with the Apostle: " I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up 
those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, 
for his body, which is the church " (Col. i. 24). 

Even if the Office did not tell us that he was all wrapped in the divine 
brightness and as it were already beatified: 1 antaque circa eum claritas 
excreverat ut in terris positus in c<zlestibus habitaret, we should still 
recognize in the frequency of these references to salvation, to heaven, 
and to God, the habitual trend of his thought : " The holy man could 
in no way teach otherwise than as he lived." 2 His whole soul was 
fixed on eternity. This preoccupation has determined the organic 
conception of the religious life which he founded in the church; for 
with the most natural framework in the family, its pursuit is the highest 
that can be, union with God, and its goal, the utterly supernatural, 
eternity. This present life is only an apprenticeship, a trial or novitiate 
for eternity; and it is in view of eternity that we have to renounce, to 
learn, and to conquer. 

1 In pritnis, si quis ad conversioncm venerit^ ea conditions excipiatttr^ ut usque ad 
mortem suam ibi perseveret (S. CAESAR., Reg. ad mon., i.). 

2 S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. xxxvi. 



IT is possible to distribute the seventy-three chapters of the Rule 
logically into different groups, provided we note that these 
do not represent clear-cut divisions and that our Holy Father, 
like all ancient writers, even when he is dealing with legislative 
enactments, gives his thought a living and flexible form, careless of 
repetition or apparent disorder. 

We may distinguish in every true association two elements: the 
constitutive and the legislative. St. Benedict describes briefly in the 
first three chapters the organic structure of monastic society, what it sub 
stantially is, and what it is not; its basis and its bond viz., the authority 
of the Abbot; then its members and their part in its government. 
Next follows (IV. -VII.) what concerns the spiritual form of our life and 
the supernatural training of each member. It is in these seven chapters 
that is given, as it seems to us, the constitution of the monastery; what 
remains relates to its legislative aspect; the subdivisions of this we shall 
notice later. 

DE GENERIBUS MoNACHORUM. It is plain that there are four kinds 

Monachorum quatuor esse genera mani- of monks. The first are the Cenobites 

festum est. Primum ccenobitarum, that is, those who do their service 

hoc est, monasteriale, militans sub [lit. military service] in monasteries 

regula vel Abbate. under a rule and an abbot. 

The first word of the rule is the word " monk." 2 It comes from the 
Greek /zoz/o/^o?, the original meaning of which is the same as that of 
/zoz/o?: alone, unique, simple. In the early centuries of Christianity, 
when certain of the faithful separated themselves, though living in the 
world, from the conditions of ordinary life, and presently from society 
itself, so as to devote themselves, whether alone or in groups, to the 
practices of supernatural asceticism, they were sometimes called jjiova^oi 
or /jLovdfrvres, separate, isolated, solitary; 3 the name was in vogue 
in the fourth century. A pagan poet at the commencement of the 
fifth century, Rutilius Namatianus, makes malicious play with the 
original meaning of the word: 

Squalet lucifugis insula plena viris: 
Ipsi se monachos graio cognomine dicunt, 
Quod soli nullo vivere teste volunt. 4 

1 We translate the titles of the chapters. Though they are given by all the manu 
scripts, with some slight variations, the critics discuss whether they are really St. Bene 
dict s. The reasons alleged against their attribution to him are not always very convinc 
ing; see, for example, W LFFLIN, Benedicti Regula Monachorum^ Prasf., p. x. We 
reproduce the Latin of the titles at the beginning of the first extract of each chapter. 

2 HAEFT., 1. III., tract, i., De nomine monachorum. 3 Cf. CASS., Conlat., XVIII., v. 
4 Itinerarium, 1. I., 489 sq. The following may serve as a version of these lines: 

In truth the island s foul and swarms again 

With men that shun the open light of day; 

Who call them monks that s Greek because they d fain 

Do ill alone where none may say them nay. 

26 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

The idea of unity which is implied in their name has made it possible 
to define monks in various ways, each embracing a part of the truth. 
Thus they are men who live alone, 1 men who wish to introduce oneness 
and simplicity into their life, men who busy themselves with God only 
and seek nothing but union with Him. Paul Orosius says : " Monks 
are Christians who, setting aside the manifold activity of the world, 
devote themselves to the one work of their faith." 2 And St. Denis 
says : " Our pious masters have called these men, at one time ther a- 
peutce because of the sincere service in which they adore the Divinity, 
at another monks, because of their single undivided life, which removes 
their spirit from the distraction of manifold interests and by which they 
are borne towards the oneness of God and the perfection of holy 
love." 3 

To these old writers the name monk denoted a genus, comprising 
all the faithful who renounced the world to give themselves to perfection. 
For a long period to be a religious and to be a monk were synonymous, 
and that is still the case in the East. But, with the appearance of 
forms of the religious life consecrated more directly to the service of 
souls, the term monk became specific. In actual fact it no longer 
belongs to any but the sons of St. Benedict and St. Bruno, though the 
custom has obtained in France of giving it to the followers of St. Francis 
and St. Dominic. However, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, in their 
controversy with the University of Paris, claimed for their brethren 
only the style of religious. 

If we should wish at this time of day to map out the religious life 
and to classify it, we might divide religious with sufficient accuracy 
into five groups, according to the time of their historical appearance 
(I say nothing here of religious women, who are of innumerable types 
and of every variety) : the five groups would be: monks, regular canons, 
friars or mendicants, regular clerks, and secular priests joined in congre 
gation with or without vows. 

In St. Benedict s time only four kinds of monks were recognized; 
and the division was so plain and so current that our Holy Father does 
not labour it. St. Jerome and Cassian 4 had noted, for Egypt, three 

1 ST. AUGUSTINE explains how the cenobites themselves, though numerically many, 
may yet be called uovos, since they have only one heart and one soul (Enarr. in Ps. cxxxii. 
6. P.L., XXXVII., 1732-1733). 

1 Histor., 1. VII., c. xxxiii. P.L., XXXI., 1145. 

8 DC Hierarcbia ecclesiastica, c. vi. 

4 Tria sunt in Mgypto genera monacborum. Unum, Ccenobit<e, quod illi Sauses 
gentili lingua vacant, nos in commune viventes possumus appellate. Secundum, Ana- 
choreta, qui soli habitant per deserta. . . . Tertium, genus est quod Remobotb dicunt, 
deterrimum atque neglectum. . . . Hi bini vel terni, nee multo plures simul habitant^ 
suo arbitrio ac ditione viventes (S. HIERON., Epist. XXII. , 34. P.L., XXII., 419). CAS 
SIAN reproduces and completes this list: Tria sunt in JEgypto genera monacborum, quorum 
duo sunt optima, tertium tepidum atque omnimodis evitandum. Primum est coenobitarum 
qui, scilicet in congregatione paritcr consistentes unius senioris judicio gubernantur. . . . 
Secundum Anacboretarum, qui prius in ccenobiis instituti jamque in actuali conversationc 
perfecti solitudinis elegere secreta. . . . Tertium reprehensibile Sarabaitarum est. 
(Anachiretce) in ccenobiis primum diutissime commor antes , ownem p attentive ac discretionis 

Of the Various Kinds of Monks 27 

kinds. St. Benedict reproduces their words in part, and mentions, 
as Cassian does, 1 a fourth category. But, while Cassian makes it consist 
of false anchorites, deserters from the cenobitical life, for St. Benedict 2 
it comprises the class of vagrant, roving monks, the gyrovagi. Cassian 
and the Fathers of the East knew them well, 3 but the wretched species 
had made such increase that St. Benedict could give them a name for 
themselves ; this name is first found in the Rule, but it may have existed 
already in common use. 

St. Benedict first mentions the Cenobites (i.e., those who live in 
common KQIVQS /3to?) because, following in this many of the Fathers, 4 
he gives them his preference. Cassian, who saw in the Christianity of 
Jerusalem a true religious family, considered them the first even histori 
cally. 5 Since he was to have full opportunity to talk about Cenobites 
in the course of this Rule which was destined for them, St. Benedict 
here confines himself to marking in a few words their chief characteristics. 
They have a common life, they dwell in a monastery, and this is the 
framework of their stability. They serve that is, they strive together 
in a common and convergent effort, towards one and the same end and 
victory: perfection, and that conventual perfection. They have a 
rule, so that the fundamental conditions of their life are fixed and in no 
way left to arbitrary arrangement; but the rule need not be written, 
it might be a collection of customs. Vel Abbate. We may remark, 
once for all, that in St. Benedict s usage the disjunctive vel has often the 
force of the copula et ; and that is the case in this passage. However 
precise may be the rule or customs, there are a thousand matters which 
will not be settled by them. So we have the living power of the Abbot 
to interpret the rule and fix its sense. Cenobites have an Abbot at 
their head that is to say, a father; so they form a family. 

Deinde secundum genus est ana- The second are the Anchorites 

choretarum, id est, eremitarum, horum Hermits that is, those who, not in 

qui non conversionis fervore novitio, the first fervour of religious life, but 

sed monasterii probatione diuturna, after long probation in the monastery, 

didicerunt contra diabolum, multorum have learned by the help and experience 

solatio jam docti, pugnare; et bene in- of others to fight against the devil; and 

structi fraterna ex acie ad singularem going forth well armed from the ranks 

regulam diligenter edocti, . . . dirissimis dcemonum prceliis congressuri penetrant heremi 
profunda secreta. Emersit post haec illud deterrimitm et infidele monachorum genus . . . 
etc., . . . bini vel terni in cellulis commorantur, non contenti abbatis euro, atque imperi* 
gubcrnari. . . etc. . . . (Conlat., XVIII., iv., Instit., V., xxxvi., [cf. also Conlat., XVIII., 
vi.] ; Conlat., XVIII., vii.) 

All the ancient forms of the monastic life, even the less reputable, are still represented 
to-day on Mt. Athos, the " holy mountain." 

1 Conlat., XVIII., viii. 

* St. Benedict puts with the sarabaites those monks who live alone, doing their own 
will: . . . aut certe singuli sine pas tore. 

3 Cf. D. BESSE, Les Moines d Orient, chap. ii. 

4 For example ST. JOHN CHRYSOST., In Matt. Horn. LXXII. P.O., LVIII., 671-672. 
ST. BASIL, Reg. fus., vii. ST. JEROME, Epist. CXXV. 9. P.L., XXII., 1077. 

5 Conlat., XVIII., v. 

28 Commentary on the Rule or St. Benedict 

pugnam eremi, securi jam sine conso- of their brethren to the single-handed 
latione alterius, sola manu vel brachio, combat of the desert, are now able to 
contra vitia carnis vel cogitationum, fight safely without the support of 
Deo auxiliante, sumciunt pugnare. others, by their own strength under 

God s aid, against the vices of the 
flesh and their evil thoughts. 

The second kind of monks are the anchorites (i.e., those who live 
apart, in seclusion: ava^copeo)) ; St. Benedict does not distinguish them, as 
St. Isidore 1 did later, from hermits or dwellers in the desert (6/397/1,09). 
The anachoretic life has always existed in the Church, 2 but it is no longer 
represented in our days, save in its mitigated form, among the Carthu 
sians and Camaldolese . . . ; though there are as well, without doubt, 
a few hermits in solitudes and some recluses near certain monasteries. 
At the beginning of monasticism anchorites were innumerable, and 
we may even say that the religious life (in its special sense) took its 
origin among them, in the third century, with St. Paul of the Thebaid, 
St. Antony, and St. Hilarion, imitators of Elias and St. John the Baptist. 
Ecclesiastical law had not yet had time to regulate the religious state; 
so anyone who wished became an anchorite, with or without a master, 
in the dress and under the rule of his choice. And we know in what 
a very simple fashion St. Benedict himself became a hermit and made 
his profession. 3 

So he knew the anchorite s life by personal experience and had 
practised it with generous ardour. He was ignorant neither of its 
attractions nor of the terrible temptations and extraordinary illusions 
to which it readily lends itself. 4 Man is not sufficient for himself; 
we need support, and we find it in social intercourse, through intelligence 
and love. We need example, encouragement, and direction. In the 
desert there is no supernatural rivalry. We have there none of the 
supervision or example of others, which, as an external supplement to 
conscience, is at once so precious, so effective, and so sweet. We have 
no scope for the exercise of fraternal charity, which is, however, the 
plainest index of our love of God. In solitude the imagination runs 
wild, the senses are strained to exasperation; and, if perchance the devil 
interferes directly, there may come a complete upset of nature s balance, 
with vice or despair. Are not souls sometimes drawn into the desert 
by sloth, instability, pride, and hatred of their kind ? To escape 
from the tyranny of passion it is not enough to flee from men, as is 
proved by many a story in the Lives of the Fathers. Take the case of 
the monk plagued with an angry temper. He fled from the monastery 
so as to escape the occasions of sin, and soon found them again in the 
eccentricities of his pitcher. 6 On the subject of the dangers of the 

1 De ecclesiasticis officiis, \. II., c. xvi. P.L., LXXXIIL, 794-795. 

2 Cf. VACANT-MANGENOT, Dictionnaire de Th ologie, art. "Anachorete." 

3 S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. i. 

4 Read the whole of Conference XIX. cf Cassian. 

5 Vtrba Senior urn: Vita Patrum, III., 98. ROSWEYD, p. 515. 

Of the Various Kinds of Monks 29 

eremitical life St. Ephrem may be read, or, of a later period, St. Ivo of 
Chartres. 1 

Our Holy Father, however, is far from being blind to the sublimity 
of the anachoretical life. But he considers it too perfect to suit most 
souls, and he puts very high the conditions necessary for a prudent entry 
on such a way of life. With Cassian, St. Nilus, 2 and others of the old 
writers, he requires in the first place that the candidate be no longer 
in the first fervour of his conversion and religious life (conversio or 
conversatio). Monks, like wine, improve with age. The fervour and 
excitement of the novice are necessary, because it is by this fermentation 
that the soul gets rid of a multitude of minor impurities which make 
it heavy and sluggish. But this sort of fervour is transient ; in proportion 
as the interior work of elimination is accomplished and the foreign 
elements are precipitated, it gives place to a fervour of charity which 
is purified and clear (defcecata). So the future hermit must try himself 
for long years in a monastery, learn the methods of the spiritual life, 
and become a past-master in the art of fighting the devil with the help 
and the consolation (Trapd/cXrjcns) of all his brethren. It is only when 
he has been well drilled and trained in the ranks, and in such collective 
struggle, for the single combat of the desert, that he will be able to face 
the struggle against the vices of the flesh and the spirit, without help 
henceforth from others, with nothing more to count on but God and 
the strength of his own right arm. Finally, the permission of his Abbot 
will guarantee the monk from all danger of presumption. 3 

The conditions of religious life have been modified, but human 
nature remains the same, and the temptation to quit the community 
and become a hermit is of all time. This desire may appear at the 
earliest stage, whether because God is really calling the soul into 
solitude, or because our self-love, infatuated with the renunciation 
demanded by so novel a life, persuades us wrongly that we have made a 
mistake, that we have not enough silence, and that all sorts of tedious 
association with others disturb the even course of our prayer. The 
temptation may arise later on and spring from a sickly or misanthropic 
temperament, or from a debased mysticism. Under the pretext that 
pure contemplation is the ideal and that the life of the Carthusian has 
been recognized by the Church as the most perfect, a monk will plague 

1 S. EPHR., De humilitate, c. Iviii. sq. (Opp. graec. lat., t. I., p. 3 I 5-3 I 7)- Paran., 
XXIIL, XXIV., XXXVIII. , XLII. (t. II., p. 102, 107, 136, 154). YVON. CARNOT., 
Epist. CXCII. et CCLVI. P.L., CLXIL, 198, 260. 

2 Tractate ad E ulogium, 32. P.G., LXXIX., 1135. Epist., 1. III., Ep. LXXII. 
P.G., LXXIX., 422. 

3 C/. SULP. SEVER., Dial. I., c. xvii. P.L., XX., 195. The councils had often to 
concern themselves with anchorites, and that of Vannes, in particular, decreed in 465 : 
Servandum quoque de monachis, ne eis ad solitarias cellulas liceat a congregatione discedere, 
nisi forte probatis post emeritos labores, aut propter infirmitatis necessitate asperior ab 
abbatibus regula remittatur. Quod ita demum fiet, ut intra eadem monasterii septa 
manentes, tamen sub abbatis potesiate separatas habere cellulas permittantur (MANN, 
t. VII., col. 954). History shows that the anachoretical life was nearly always tempered 
by the cenobitical, and that the solitaries of the East were grouped in communities, 
or at least took companions, admitted disciples, and visited one another at long intervals. 

30 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

his Abbot until he has consented to his departure, a departure which 
is often only the prelude to a sad series of wanderings. Or perhaps 
a man will try to make himself a sort of anchorite withir the walls of 
his monastery. He constructs a little life of his own; he keeps himself 
at a distance from the Abbot and his brethren. The peaceful and 
leisured conditions secured by the monastic life no longer serve God, 
or charity, but self. Alas ! such a monk will no longer have even the 
shadow of true happiness; he will never come near to God; he will die 
prosaically, a slave to his ease and to an old man s whimsies, hardened 
and swollen with his self-love. We must hold fast to the advice of the 
Apostle: "And let us consider one another, to provoke unto charity 
and good works; not forsaking our assembly, as some are accustomed; 
but comforting one another, and so much the more as you see the day 
approaching " (Heb. x. 24-25). 

While maintaining our belief in extraordinary vocations, it is per 
missible to regard the cenobitical life as more natural than that of the 
anchorite. " It is not good for man to be alone." Absolute silence, 
says St. Hildegarde, is inhuman that is to say, either above or below 
human nature. 1 Many things can only be well done in association; 
the stars themselves are grouped in constellations. So we, being all 
redeemed together by our Saviour, sanctify ourselves together in Him, 
so as to share with all fulness in the intimate union of the Divine Persons. 
As St. John says (i Ep. i. 3), " That which we have seen and have 
heard, we declare unto you ; that you also may have fellowship with us 
and our fellowship may be with the Father and with his Son Jesus 
Christ." So in eternity too our life will be cenobitical; and St. Thomas 
explains how even then the society of our friends will become an element 
of our happiness. 2 There is wisdom in not conceiving our earthly 
life on any different plan. 

Tertium vero monachorum deterri- A third and detestable kind of 

mum genus est sarabaitarum, qui nulla monks are the Sarabaites, who have 

regula approbati, experientia magistra, been tried by no rule nor by experience 

sicut aurum fornacis, sed in plumbi na- the master, as gold by the furnace; 

tura molliti, adhuc operibus servantes but, being as soft as lead, still keep 

saeculo fidem, mentiri Deo per tonsuram faith with the world in their works, 

noscuntur. Qui bini aut terni, aut while, as their tonsure shows, they lie 

certe singuli sine pastore, non Domini- to God. These in twos or threes, or 

cis, sed suis inclusi ovilibus, pro lege even singly without a shepherd, shut 

eis est desideriorum voluptas: cum up not in the Lord s sheepfolds but in 

quicquid putaverint vel elegerint, hoc their own, make a law to themselves 

dicunt sanctum, et quod noluerint, hoc of their own pleasures and desires : 

putant non licere. whatever they think fit or please to do, 

that they call holy; and what they like 
not, that they consider unlawful. 

Our Holy Father strikes out the anachoretical life, because prudence 
forbids it to most men; for quite different motives he rejects the life 

1 Regula S. Bened. Explanatio. P.L.. CXCVIL, 1056. 

2 S. Tb., I.-II., q. iv., a. 8. 

Of the Various Kinds of Monks 3 1 

of the Sarabaites, which is, as he says, detestable. Cassian attributes 
an Egyptian origin to the word Sarabaite: " From their sequestering 
themselves from the association of the monasteries and looking after 
their needs, each man for himself, they were called in the Egyptian 
idiom Sarabaites. 5>1 But perhaps, with more likelihood, it may be 
derived from the Aramaic term sarab, which means rebellious or refrac 
tory. 2 To understand how it is that monks such as St. Benedict here 
describes could be found in existence for several centuries, we must 
remember that the Church had not yet surrounded the approach to 
religion with a series of precautionary measures, designed for the elimina 
tion of the unworthy, the unsuitable, or the unstable. So a man had 
only to take a habit, or have one given him, and then cut his hair. With 
out previous novitiate, without becoming part of a regularly constituted 
community, he was a monk and in the language of the time " converted," 
provided that he showed by certain external acts that he had renounced 
the world and devoted himself to God. Such a one was bound to 
chastity and, in some degree, to poverty; but where was obedience ? 

The Sarabaites might say: "We recognize theoretically that 
obedience is implied in the concept of monasticism; more than that, 
we are quite prepared to obey; what then will the actual tendering of 
obedience add to the perfection of our interior dispositions ?" St. Bene 
dict foresees and discounts such sophisms. Only effective and practical 
obedience is any test of the reality of interior dispositions ; and one only 
obeys where there are orders and a rule. Now the Sarabaites have no 
rule to test them, to prove them true religious: nulla regula approbate, 
" tried by no rule." Experience serves as a touchstone which teaches 
the monk and others his true value, experientia magistral " with 
experience as master." Far from being that true gold that readily 
stands the test of the furnace and emerges victorious, pure of all alloy, 
the man who refuses to pass through the crucible of a rule is convicted 
beforehand of being soft and base as lead. The life of the Sarabaites 
is an open lie. They lie at the same time to God and to the world: 
to the world, for they have put off its livery, yet their works are of the 
world worldly; to God, for they betray Him at the same time that they 
parade their consecration to His service. Their life is worldly, though 
their heads be shaven. 

But perhaps, if they have not a written rule, at least they have a 
living rule in the person of an Abbot. No; they unite in parties of 
two or three, and none of them claims any sort of authority; or even, 
and this is still more agreeable, they live alone in hermitages. And so 
they form a fold without a shepherd, a fold which belongs to no master, 
not at all to God but entirely to themselves, " shut up, not in the 

1 Conlat., XVIIL, vii. 

2 Cf. CALMET, in b. I. GAZET, in his note on the passage of CASSIAN previously 

3 This phrase is better supported from all points of view than the reading experi- 
entia magistri ; it is borrowed from CASSIAN, Conlat.j XIX., vii. 

3 2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Lord s sheepfolds but in their own." Their rule is what pleases them, 
their desire, or the whim of the moment. Not that they form any set 
purpose to themselves of belonging to their own will alone; perhaps 
they persuade themselves that they do obey a rule; but they make their 
rule of life for themselves. Whatever they think fit or determine to do, 
that they call holy; 1 and what they like not, that they consider unlawful. 
We have here, expressed in singularly energetic language, a descrip 
tion of a psychological state which is only too common and which forms 
a most serious danger. If the Sarabaite of history is extinct, his spirit 
is by no means so. Man has the unfortunate facility of seeing things, 
not as they are, but as he is, of making the world after his own image 
and likeness. In the moral order, in the sphere of will, where a mistake 
is not palpable, betraying itself (as in a laboratory) by the tangible and 
instant punishment of failure or an explosion, we easily come to distort 
all our decisions, to canonize what we do, to adore that which pleases 
us. It is delusion. 2 Thanks to this tendency, a man may motive the 
most unjustifiable course of action by excellent principles, and set up 
as a dictate of conscience what is really inspired by the basest passions. 
What revolutionary ever proposes simply to upset social order ? What 
heretic is not persuaded that he is serving the Church ? And when the 
monks of Vicovaro tried to poison St. Benedict, their fierce good faith 
must have based itself on high considerations of public interest. It is 
nowhere more easy than in the religious life to deaden the conscience 
and distort its voice; the old axiom proves true: Corruptio o-ptimi 
pessima. And this is the result of a whole course of interior diplomacy, 
of a chemical process of the mind: " I have vowed perfection. This 
imposes on me a yoke which I no longer have the courage to bear: 
must I then leave the monastery ? This petty obedience may be all 
right for the period of growth and formation; but I am a senior now. 
And, after all, are there not certain adjustments possible, certain 
legitimate interpretations of law ? And is not this also perfection ?" 
And so a man gently substitutes his own will for the law, until the 
fascination of self occupies the whole field of his interior vision; complete 
apostasy will not then be long in coming. Undoubtedly every tendency 
to isolate oneself from the community, all irregular fostering of an 
individual whim, does not end in such excess; but we should know the 
pitfalls that beset the way of the Sarabaite, and where it may lead, so 
that prudence may compel us to avoid it. Oh, if we could but profit 
by the fearful experiences of others ! There is no security save in the 
way of absolute obedience and in conventual life under the rule of an 

1 A reminiscence of a Roman proverb, several times quoted by ST. AUGUSTINE; 
the latter relates that Tychonius made the Donatists say: Qiwd voluttius sanctum est 
Epist. XCIIL, 14, 43. P.L., XXXIII. , 328, 342. Contra Epist. Parmeniani, 1. II., 
c. xiii. P.L., XLIIL, 73. Contra Cresconinm Donatistam, 1. IV., c. xxxvii. P.., 
XLIIL, 572. 

2 Read Father Faber s Spiritual Conference on Self-deceit, 

Of the Various Kinds of Monks 33 

Quartum vero genus est mona- The fourth kind of monks are those 

chorum, quod nominatur gyrovagum, called Gyrovagues, who spend all 

qui tota vita sua per diversas provincias their lives long wandering about divers 

ternis aut quaternis diebus per diver- provinces, staying in different cells 

sorum cellas hospitantur, semper vagi for three or four days at a time, ever 

et nunquam stabiles, et propriis volup- roaming, with no stability, given up 

tatibus et gulae illecebris servientes, et to their own pleasures and to the 

per omnia deteriores sarabaitis ; de snares of gluttony, and worse in all 

quorum omnium miserrima conversa- things than the Sarabaites. Of the 

tione melius est silere quam loqui. most wretched life of all these it is 

better to say nothing than to speak. 

It might have seemed difficult to find a more degraded form of the 
religious life than that of the Sarabaites; yet there is a worse still. 
After all the Sarabaites could work and pray; their fold was not the 
Lord s fold, but still they had one and so had an embryo of the monastic 
home; perhaps there were good souls to be met here and there among 
them; in any case the spectacle of their careless observance was not for 
many. But the Gyrovagues display their wretched state in the full 
light of day and in every place, without any reserve. 

They made the vow of poverty only, and that with no intention 
of shutting themselves up in a cloister, but of living in the world at 
the expense of others. Their whole life was passed on the road; they 
saw the world and conversed with all men. They would knock devoutly 
at monastery or hermitage, and the excuse of fatigue or respect for the 
religious habit, besides the careful attention that is given to the passing 
guest, ensured them a pleasant life and good meals. 1 After three or 
four days the Gyrovague would take his leave, with wallet well stuffed 
with provisions. He took great care not to fix himself anywhere, for 
he would have had to adopt the customs of the monastery which enter 
tained him. He vanished at the right moment and before he could be 
required to take his part in the common toil. He was the parasite of 
the monastic life, rather a tramp than a monk. 2 We can imagine the 
shamelessness, the vulgarity, the immorality, and general intractability 
of these men. They discredited the religious life, and St. Augustine, 
in a passage by which St. Benedict was inspired, depicts them as raised 
up by the devil for this very purpose. " He has scattered many 
hypocrites in the guise of monks in all directions, men who traverse the 
provinces with no work and no fixed dwelling, never quiet or at rest. 
Some go about selling bones of the martyrs; let us suppose they are 
those of martyrs." 3 

1 Cf. S. ISIDORI PELUS., Epist., 1. I., Ep. XLI. P.C., LXXVIII., 207. Instead 
of voluptatibus the best manuscripts have voluntatibus ; which recalls this passage of the 
Verba Senior um : Oportet nos, . . . in congregatione manentes, non qua nostra sunt 
quarere, neque servire proprice voluntati (Vita Patrum, V., xiv., 10. ROSWEYD, p. 618). 
See also the Historia monacborum of RUFINUS, c. xxxi. ROSWEYD, p. 484. 

2 The Regula Magistri, xx., draws a far from flattering portrait of the gyrovague; 
read also the eighth chapter of the Constitution** monastics which figure among the 
Works of ST. BASIL. P.G., XXXI., 1367 sq. 

3 De opere monacborum, c. xxviii. P.L., XL., 575. In bk. X. of the Institutions, 
chap, vi., CASSIAN describes the idle monk in terms which recall those of St. Augustine. 


34 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

To sum up : they have no recollection, no prayer, no work, no morti 
fication, no stability, no obedience; and on all these heads the Gyro- 
vagues are inferior to the Sarabaites : et per omnia deteriores Sarabaitis. 
St. Benedict, after a look at this picture, asks permission to insist no 
further 1 (De quorum omnium probably means the Sarabaites and 
Gyrovagues). Let us imitate him, and yet remember that the tendency 
to the life of the Gyrovague may always reappear. It is easy to grow 
fond of leaving the monastery, of good meals, of conversation with 
layfolk; to let oneself slip into taking little care with one s person and 
giving the name of " holy simplicity " to slovenliness or to gossip with 

His ergo omissis, ad ccenobitarum Leaving these alone, therefore, let 
fortissimum genus disponendum, adju- us set to work, by the help of God, 
vante Domino, veniamus. to lay down a rule for the Cenobites 

that is, the strongest race of monks. 

St. Jerome expresses himself in nearly the same terms: " These then, 
like evil pests, being put away, let us come to those who are more 
numerous and dwell in community that is, to those who are, as we said, 
called Cenobites." 2 So let us too leave on one side these caricatures 
of the monastic life; let us even, though for other reasons, leave aside 
the eremitical life, and now with God s help begin to organize by means 
of rule the sound and strong race of Cenobites. Already, even from 
the exclusions that form the theme of almost the whole of this first 
chapter, the great main lines of Benedictine life disengage themselves; 
that life will be conventual, ruled by obedience, vowed to stability. 

1 We read in RUFINUS also (Hist, mon., c. vii.): Unde silere de his melius censeo, 
quamparum digne proloqui (ROSWEYD, p. 464). An analogous formula occurs in SALLUST 
(Jugurtba, xix.); D. Butler observes that it strongly resembles a proverb. 

2 Epist. XXII., 35. P.L., XXII., 419. 



IN order that our life may be truly cenobitical and conventual and 
not consist merely in the juxtaposition of men under the same roof, 
with the motto of the Abbey of Thelema, " Do as you like," it 
must be regulated by a rule; but this rule itself will be inadequate 
and inefficient without the intervention of a living authority. No 
society escapes this necessity; each must have a master. And St. Bene 
dict speaks at once about the Abbot, because he looks upon him as the 
keystone in the arch of that edifice which he wishes to construct, as the 
foundation on which all rests, as the influence which co-ordinates the 
diverse members, as the head and the heart, from which flows all vitality. 
The queen-bee makes the hive, and it is matter of experience that a 
monastery takes after its Abbot. Therefore to show what the Abbot 
should be is at the same time to draw in advance the outlines of monastic 
society. No previous rule had given so complete an account of the 
duties of the Abbot, and although he borrows more than one idea from 
his predecessors 1 as, for example, from St. Basil and St. Orsiesius our 
Holy Father has in this chapter produced entirely original work. 


qui praeesse dignus est monasterio, 
semper meminisse debet, quod dicitur, 
et nomen majoris factis implere. 
Christi enim agere vices in monasterio 
creditur, quando ipsius vocatur prseno- 
mine, dicente Apostolo: Accepistis 
spiritum adoptionis filiorum, in quo 
clamamus: Abba, pater. 

An Abbot who is worthy to rule 
over the monastery ought always to 
remember what he is called, and 
correspond to his name by his works. 
For he is believed to hold the place 
of Christ in the monastery, since he is 
called by His name, as the Apostle 
says: " Ye have received the spirit of 
the adoption of sons, in which we 
cry: Abba, Father." 

St. Benedict refuses to concern himself with him who would be 
Abbot for his own pleasure or for ostentation, but deals only with him 
who is worthy to rule the monastery. He is worthy in proportion as 
he realizes by constant consideration the meaning of the name which 
he bears, and compels himself to justify by his deeds this title of superior 
and head. It is a question of loyalty and moral concord; there must be 
this harmony between the thing and its name, between the man and 
his distinctive title, between the nature and the activity which is to 
express it. So if he understands his name aright the Abbot will find 
in it, not only the source, but the character and extent of his power 
and the measure of his responsibility. 2 

1 Cf. HAEFT., 1. III., tract, v. 

2 Clericus qui Cbristi servit Ecdesiee interprctatur prime vocabtdum suum, et nowinis 
definitione prolata, nitatur esse quod dicitur (S. HJERON., Epist. LIL, ad Nepotia*xm t 5, 
P.L., XXII., 531). 


36 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

The abbatial authority has its source in God: it does not come from 
the community, although the community designates its holder. It 
comes from God doubly, as authority and as spiritual authority. For 
all authority is from God. Those in our day who busy themselves in 
the thankless task of constructing a morality without obligation or 
sanction only expose the absolute impotence of men to create an ounce 
of authority. They may cajole, suggest, or compel; but authority they 
have not. A man is worth no more than his fellows; neither cleverness, 
nor force, nor even intellectual superiority is able to create a real right 
to power; and of this anarchists are not unaware. We must give up the 
supposition of a social contract, an original vote of the people on purpose 
to declare that society shall exist. 1 That was a blessed state formerly 
when civil authority was exercised by men consecrated by the kingly 
anointing and reigning " by the grace of God." 

But here we are in the supernatural order, where power has no other 
end than to rule souls and sanctify them. Such power can only come 
from the special investiture of God: " Nor doth anyone take to himself 
honour, except he be called by God." Undoubtedly, according to the 
terms of Canon Law, the authority of the Abbot is "ordinary"; 
nevertheless, in respect of God it is only delegated. The Abbot is the 
deputy and understudy of the Lord. We may examine this divine 
delegation at close quarters, for the whole teaching of this chapter 
derives from it. To St. Benedict the monastery is in very truth the 
"house of God" (Chapter LIIL); first in this sense that Our Lord 
Jesus Christ dwells there and is its centre; for the joy of our conventual 
life consists in our all being grouped together round Him. But He 
does not dwell there as though in a hired house or in the rooms of an 
hotel; He is the sole true proprietor of the monastery, possessing both 
radical dominion and dominion of use. He is also the Abbot; and if 
Our Lord were to show Himself visibly, all obedience and all honour 
would go to Him; the crozier would have to be placed in His hands 
forthwith. 2 

Would it be very sweet and very easy to obey Our Lord directly ? 
Yet He has not willed it so, and for many reasons. In the first place, 
it would be to realize the conditions of eternity at once. And are we 
quite certain that we should never disobey Him ? His visible presence 
would give our faults a graver character, make them more worthy of 
condemnation. He has not even entrusted us to angels; perhaps they 
would have failed to be considerate for our weakness; or we might have 
obeyed because of their superiority of nature and God would not have 
been the motive of our submission. His procedure is always the same; 
He expresses Himself and comes to us under the humblest forms : in the 
Creation, in the Incarnation, in the Holy Eucharist, in His priests. 

1 Read BOSSUET, Cinquieme avertissement sur les lettres du ministre jfurieu, chap. 
xxxvi. ff. 

2 Read ST. GERTRUDE S Herald of Divine Love, chap. ii. of bk. IV.: Our Lord presiding 
at chapter in the Office of Prime. 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be 37 

It is His mercy; the Son of God, as the Apostle says, " had in all things 
to be made like to his brethren, that he might become merciful. . . . 
For in that wherein he himself hath suffered and been tempted, he is 
able to succour them also that are tempted" (Heb. ii. 17-18). The 
Abbot is a human creature like us, frail like us, perhaps more weak 
than we. He has his own temperament and his own habits; but let 
us not stop at the exterior, recognizing as we should that God is in him, 
believing that he is Christ, understanding that our faith has to be 
exercised: " For he is believed to hold the place of Christ in the monas 
tery." Be he pleasant or harsh, be he old or young, be he the Abbot 
we know or a new one, it makes no matter, for he is the Lord. 

His name itself expresses this substitution: he is called, as Our Lord 
is called, Abbot that is, Father. And to monks, who are Christians 
made perfect, we may apply the words which the Apostle St. Paul spoke 
of those who were regenerated in Christ. " You have received the 
spirit of the adoption of sons by which we cry: Abba, Father " (Rom. viii. 
15). But a difficulty presents itself; the Christians cry is to the 
First Person of the Holy Trinity and not to the Second; they say: 
" Abba, Father," to imitate the Son of God speaking to His Father 
(Mark xiv. 36). Does the text cited by St. Benedict really prove that 
the Abbot bears one of the names of Christ and that Christ may be 
called Father ? We may reply that St. Benedict does not wish to give 
his quotation the character of rigorous demonstration; he merely notes 
that the Abbot has a " divine " name, and the sacred text which 
presents itself spontaneously to his thought appears to justify this 
teaching. Furthermore, theology teaches us that the title of Father 
may be given either to the First Person alone, when considered in rela 
tion to the Second, or to the Three Persons together, when regarded 
as a single essence ad intra and as a single principle of action ad extra ; 
for in God, according to the axiom formulated by the Council of 
Florence: "where there is no opposition of relation, all is one" 
(Omnia sunt unum, ubi non obviat relationis oppositio). 

Ideoque Abbas nihil extra praecep- And therefore the Abbot ought not 

turn Domini (quod absit) debet aut (God forbid) to teach, or ordain, or 

docere, aut constituere, vel jubere: command anything contrary to the 

sed jussio ejus vel doctrina, fermentum law of the Lord; but let his bidding 

divinas justitiae, in discipulorum menti- and his doctrine be infused into the 

bus conspergatur. minds of his disciples like the leaven 

of divine justice. 

The Abbot s authority is divine; it is paternal and absolute, and in 
this respect resembles the paternal authority of God more than the 
patria potestas of Roman law with which St. Benedict was familiar; 
but it is by no means an unlimited and arbitrary authority. No 
authority is lawful when exercised beyond its limits, and the limits of 
all authority are those fixed by God s grant. God does not support, 
and cannot be charged with, any exercise of authority for which He 
has given no grant, still less with any which militates against Himself; 

38 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

for God cannot be divided against God. Now, precisely because the 
authority of the Abbot comes from God and shares in the force and 
extent of God s authority, the Abbot should use it only for the ends 
and for the interests of God and according to God s methods. For 
Our Lord is not dispossessed; though His authority be in the hands of 
the Abbot, it remains His still. Good sense teaches us this, and herein 
we have the basis of the simplicity, security, and perfect order of our life. 

Consequently nothing in the teaching, nothing in the general 
arrangements or particular orders of the Abbot, shall be foreign or con 
trary to the law of the Lord; God forbid, quod absit^ for it would be a 
monstrous thing. But, so far from abusing his power to satisfy his 
passions and to cast into the souls of his disciples the evil leaven of false 
teachers (Matt. xvi. 6, 11-12), the Abbot must by his teaching and his 
orders infuse into them in abundance the leaven of divine justice 
(Matt. xiii. 33); by means of him does Our Lord wish to be born and 
grow in souls. 2 

St. Benedict s words are not an invitation to monks to scrutinize 
their Abbot narrowly, so as to make sure that he is a faithful steward 
and governs correctly. The filial spirit, in accord with the axiom of 
common law, will always give the superior the benefit of the doubt; 
the contrary attitude would tend to debase all authority and weaken 
all discipline. Men do not need to be encouraged to disobey. Of 
course exception is made of the case where misguided authority might 
prescribe what was bad or patently contrary to the Rule. Canonical 
visitations were instituted to prevent and correct abuses; St. Benedict 
suggests a different method. 

Memor sit semper Abbas qnia doc- Let the Abbot be ever mindful 

trinae suse vel discipulorum obedientise, that at the dreadful judgement of God, 

utrarumque rerum, in tremendo judicio an account will have to be given both 

Dei facienda erit discussio, sciatque of his own teaching and of the obedi- 

Abbas culpae pastoris incumbere, quic- ence of his disciples. And let him know 

quid in ovibus paterfamilias utilitatis that any lack of profit which the father 

minus potuerit invenire. Tantum of the household may find in his sheep, 

iterum liber erit, si inquieto vel ino- shall be imputed to the fault of the 

bedienti gregi pastoris fuerit omnis shepherd. Only then shall he be 

diligentia attributa, et morbidis earum acquitted, if he shall have bestowed 

actibus universa fuerit cura exhibita: all pastoral diligence on his unquiet 

pastor earum in judicio Domini abso- and disobedient flock, and employed 

lutus, dicat cum Propheta Domino: all his care to amend their corrupt 

Justitiam tuam non abscondi in corde manner of life: then shall he be ab- 

1 D. BUTLER adopts, as better attested, the reading: Nihil extra praceptum Domini 
quod sit. . . . 

2 Our Holy Father remembered ST. BASIL, who reminds the superior that he is 
minister Christi et dispensator mysteriorum Dei ; timens ne prater voluntatem Dei, vel 
prater quod in sacris Scripturis evidenter pracipitur, vel dicat aliquid, vel imperet, ete 
inveniatur tanquam falsus testis Dei, aut sacrileges, vel introducens aliquid alicnum a 
doctrina Domini, vel certe subrclinquens et prateriens aliquid eorum qua Deo placita sunt. 
Ad fratres autcm csse debet tanquam si nutrix fovcat parvulos suns, etc. (Reg. contr., xv.). 
Cf. ibid., clxxxiv. 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be 39 

meo, veritatem tuam et salutare tuum solved in the judgement of the Lord, 
dixi; ipsi autem contemnentes spreverunt and may say to the Lord with the 
me. Et tune demum inobedientibus prophet: " I have not hidden thy 
curse suae ovibus poena sit eis praevalens justice in my heart, I have declared 
ipsa mors. thy truth and thy salvation, but they 

contemned and despised me." So at 
the last to those disobedient sheep 
may their punishment come, over 
mastering death. 

There is a problem of government which has not yet found a final 
solution the problem, that is, of reconciling authority and liberty. 
It has been done, but at long intervals, and Tacitus noted in his Life of 
Agricola that the Emperor Nerva had had this chance : " Although . . . 
Nerva Caesar combined things before incompatible, the principate and 
liberty. . . ." To-day men work at the problem incessantly; for this 
end they make constitutions and supplementary laws, they revise them, 
they proclaim the separation of offices, they balance them ingeniously, 
they parcel out authority so that its parts may counterpoise one another, 
they leave in the hands of him who presides over public affairs the smallest 
possible amount of initiative. But it very often happens that we 
escape the dictatorship of one only to become subject to an oligarchical 
dictatorship. And as for individual liberty and the pretence of securing 
its inviolability, well, we at least know what it comes to. So it is 
ascertained fact that the only truly effective curb on human activity is 
conscience, and to restrain and guide this activity you must reach men s 

St. Benedict is the wisest of legislators. He sets up an authority; 
he provides for the appointment of the holder of this authority 
by those concerned; he puts into the hands of the elect a power 
of enormous extent; and he simply makes this authority accountable 
to Our Lord. This is the only safeguard that he gives the monks. 
If the Abbot has faith and is anxious for his salvation, he can have no 
better incentive or curb; if the Abbot is unworthy of his position, 
nothing short of deposition will do any good; if he is merely weak and 
heedless, our Holy Father impresses on him, over and over again, the 
responsibility he is incurring, and he would have him remind himself 
of it continually: Mcmor sit semper. It would even seem that St. 
Benedict dreaded defect rather than excess in the exercise of authority. 

The Abbot is responsible and will be judged for two matters: his 
own teaching and the observance of his disciples ; " of both these things " 
as St. Benedict says emphatically. 1 Of course faults are personal 
matters ; but, for all that, the Abbot will have to answer for the obedience 
of his monks, in the sense that he must maintain the yoke of obedience 
and in all discretion make his monks feel the salutary influence of his 
authority. He cannot be heedless. He will carry before the awful 
tribunal of God the load of community faults which he has known and 

1 Cf, S. ORSIESII, Doctrina^ x., xi. 

40 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

has not corrected. Between him and his monks there is set up a con 
tinuous current: his actions go out towards them as an influence, theirs 
seek him as their principle. The Father of the family has made him 
shepherd and entrusted His sheep to him; He expects to find them all 
when He comes, and to find them strong and prospering. If He be 
disappointed, if any harm have come to the flock, let the Abbot know 
for certainty that it will be imputed to him: " any lack of profit which 
He may find." 

There is only one case, 1 when the shepherd will be relieved of 
responsibility, and that no pleasant case; it is when the loss God finds 
is not really the fault of the Abbot. His flock was unruly and turbulent. 
Yet he did not omit to spend his care on it and to administer all sorts 
of treatment for its moral ills. If such be the case the Abbot will be 
acquitted and absolved in the judgement, and he will be able to say to 
the Lord with the prophet David (Ps. xxxix. n), with Ezechiel (xx. 27) 
and with Isaias (i. 2) : "I have not hidden thy justice in my heart, 
I have declared thy truth and thy salvation, but they have contemned 
them and despised me." Then, says St. Benedict in conclusion, 
instead of the life which they would not, may death itself, for their 
punishment, take those sheep rebellious to his care and his treatment; 
may death overcome and have the final word: pcena sit eis prcevalens 
ipsa mars. 2 

Ergo cum aliquis suscipit nomen 
Abbatis, duplici debet doctrina suis 
praeesse discipulis; id est, omnia bona 
et -sancta, factis amplius quam verbis 
ostendere, ut capacibus discipulis man- 
data Domini verbis proponat: duris 
vero corde et simplicioribus, factis 
suis divina praecepta demonstret. Om 
nia vero quae discipulis docuerit esse 
contraria, in suis factis indicet non 
agenda; ne aliis praedicans, ipse repro- 
bus inveniatur. Ne quando illi dicat 
Deus peccanti : Ouare tu enarras jus- 
titias meas, et assumis testamentum 
meum per os tuum ? Tu vero odisti 
disciplinam, et -projecisti sermones meos 
-post te. Et, Qui in fratris tui oculo 
festucam videbas, in tuo trabem ncn 
vidisti ? 

Therefore when anyone takes the 
name of Abbot, he ought to govern 
his disciples by a twofold doctrine: 
that is, he should show forth all that 
is good and holy by his deeds, rather 
than his words: declaring to the in 
telligent among his disciples the com 
mandments of the Lord by words : but 
to the hard-hearted and the simple- 
minded setting forth the divine pre 
cepts by the example of his deeds. 
And let him show by his own actions 
that those things ought not to be done 
which he has taught his disciples to be 
against the law of God; lest, while 
preaching to others, he should himself 
become a castaway, and God should 
say to him in his sin : " Why dost thou 
declare my justice, and take my cove 
nant in thy mouth ? Thou hast 
hated discipline, and hast cast my 
words behind thee." And again, 
" Thou who sawest the mote in thy 
brother s eye, didst thou not see the 
beam in thine own ?" 

1 D. BUTLER reads: Tantundcm iterum erit, ut, , etc. 
Cf. S. GKEG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. iii. 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be 41 

So the Abbot has not received from God his dignity and his name 
in order to find in them the satisfaction of vanity or sloth: as the begin 
ning of this chapter warned us, he is at the head of his monks to be useful 
to them and to lead them to God, " to profit rather than to preside," 
as our Holy Father tells us in Chapter LXIV. We learn also that the 
Abbot s responsibility holds in respect of two matters : his doctrine and 
the obedience of his disciples. St. Benedict now examines these two 
points more at leisure. He gives to the word doctrine the widest signifi 
cation: it is at once teaching properly so called and the government of 
souls, all that goes to the making of " disciples," the whole policy of an 
Abbot who is at once a father and a master. In the course of the 
chapter the teaching of the Abbot and his government are dealt with 
successively; to conclude our Holy Father reminds him that he shall 
have to give an account to God for the obedience of all his monks, as 
for his own fidelity. 

His first duty is to teach; consequently he must study and he must 
be learned. 1 Christians and monks are children of light. Sanctification 
is not a mechanical process but the development of supernatural 
understanding. If a love of doctrine reigns in a monastery, all goes well 
there. But though each religious can apply himself to the cultivation 
of his faith by his own study, it remains true that the life of the individual 
and the unity of the family need the Abbot s doctrine. Books, from 
the very fact that they speak to all men, speak to no one in particular; 
for this we need the living word of a master. And St. Benedict indicates 
in a phrase the subject-matter of the Abbot s teaching: omnia bona et 
sancta, " all that is good and holy," all that is apt to lead souls to God. 
For such is the knowledge that matters to us ; other knowledge may be 
learnt in other schools; the purpose of this knowledge is moral and 

St. Benedict is thinking so little of human knowledge, or of dry 
theological or scriptural speculation, that he requires the Abbot to 
disseminate his doctrine by words and acts together, and even more by 
example than by word. 2 It is a matter of common experience that we 
teach more by our life than by our preaching, and example of whatever 
sort makes the deeper impression in proportion as it comes from a 
greater height. Therefore the motive which makes St. Benedict 
emphasize this twofold doctrine is precisely this, to make truth 
accessible to all the souls of which a community is ordinarily composed, 
including those whom mere didactic teaching of itself would fail to 
influence effectively. 

There are open souls, capaces, whose intelligence is absolutely right, 
trustful, in harmony beforehand with the doctrine, whose will is resolute, 
active, and so yoked with their intelligence that it moves spontaneously 
in the direction of the light. To souls of this fine temper, lofty and 

1 Cf. MABILLON, Traite des etudes monastiques, P. I., chap. iii. 

- The counsel is frequent in the old writers; cf. S. BASIL.. Reg. f us. xliii. S. NIL., 
Epist., I III., Ep. CCCXXXII. P.C., LXXIX., 542. CASS., Conlat., XL, iv. 

42 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

strong, it is enough to propose the good, to speak the mind of God, and 
they fall into line with ease and joy. They realize in some degree the 
perfect man of Plato, with whom AOYO? (reason) is supreme, understand 
ing always effective, truth always decisive, who does evil only in spite of 
himself and by ignorance; they recall still more the angelic type. And 
without wishing to represent every monk as an angel, it is clear that in 
a modern community such receptive souls are the majority, because we 
benefit by a long Christian past, by education, and by the conditions of 
the sacerdotal life. But in the time of our Holy Father rough characters, 
souls of limited vision, duri corde et simpliciores, were to be met with. 
For such, supposing they still exist, the worthy life and regularity of the 
Abbot, the constant contact with his piety, will avail more than all 
exhortations. And we must add that the Abbot acts on his community 
not only by his spoken doctrine and by his example, but also by his 
tendency, by his spirit, by the deep motive of his actions. It is a sort 
of secret magnetism, an impulse which souls do not resist; and it is in 
this way that little by little a monastery takes the character of its Abbot. 
St. Benedict says nothing explicitly on the duty of residence, but it is 
plain that the Abbot could not teach and edify if he were always 

The question whether the legislator comes under his own law does 
not arise here; for the Abbot is not a legislator, but the guardian of the 
Rule, and towards it he has a double obligation, to observe it in his 
capacity of monk, to see to its observance in his capacity of Abbot. 
What authority will his teaching have when his words are seen to be on 
one side and his deeds on the other ? In such a flagrant contradiction 
there is not merely harm and danger for the community; as St. Benedict 
adds, there is grave peril for himself. While preaching salvation to 
others, is he not on the way to become a castaway ? (l Cor. ix. 27). 
When pronouncing judgement God will emphasize all the hatefulness 
of this deliberate contrast between severe moral teaching and scan 
dalously relaxed practice (Ps. xlix. 16-17; Matt. vii. 3). 

Non ab eo persona in monasterio Let him make no distinction of 

discernatur. Non unus plus ametur persons in the monastery. Let not 

quam alius, nisi qucm in bonis actibus one be loved more than another, unless 

aut obedientia invenerit meliorem. he be found to excel in good works or 

Non convertenti ex servitio praeponatur in obedience. Let not one of noble 

ingenuus, nisi alia rationabilis causa birth be put before him that was 

existat. Quod si ita, justitia dictante, formerly a slave, unless some other 

Abbati visum fuerit, et de cujuslibet reasonable cause exist for it. If upon 

ordine id faciat; sin alias, propria tene- just consideration it should so seem 

ant loca: quia sive servus, sive liber, good to the Abbot, let him advance 

omnes in Christo unum sumus, et sub one of any rank whatever; but other- 

uno Domino sequalem servitutis mili- wise let them keep their own places; 

tiam bajulamus: Quia non est -persona- because, whether bond or free, we 

rum acceptio apud Deum. Solummodo are all one in Christ, and bear an 

in hac parte apud ipsum discernimur, equal burden in the army of one Lord : 

si meliores aliis in operibus bonis et for "with God there is no respect- 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be 43 

humiles inveniamur. Ergo aequalis sit ing of persons." Only for one reason 
omnibus ab eo charitas; una praebeatur are we to be preferred in His sight, 
omnibus, secundum merita, disciplina. if we be found to surpass others in 

good works and in humility. Let the 
Abbot, then, show equal love to all, 
and let the same discipline be imposed 
upon all according to their deserts. 

St. Benedict now deals with the Abbot s goverrment. In this 
paragraph he settles that it must be equitable; in that which follows 
he shows that it must be moderate and discreet. The Abbot must not 
be an accepter of persons; which is a general principle. To accept 
persons is, in the application of distributive justice, to have regard to 
persons themselves and not to title and right and the facts of the case. 
Holy Scripture frequently warns us against this tendency to favouritism 
and unjustifiable preferences; 1 and St. Benedict had only to develop 
a thought familiar to the old monastic legislators. 2 Here too the rule 
of the Abbot must copy the rule of God, " for with God there is no 
respect of persons " (Rom. ii. n; Col. iii. 25). 3 Nevertheless we must 
note that the resemblance is not complete. God gives each being its 
nature, and He remains entirely free as to the perfections which may be 
superadded to this nature; He gives as it pleases Him; and this sovereign 
right is plainer still in the supernatural order. Except for contract 
or promise God, when He gives, is independent of title or ground. 
But the same is not the case with the Abbot, who cannot, as God can, 
give the person preferred that which justifies the preference; all he 
can do is to recognize just titles to special treatment. 

Equity in the Abbot will be concerned with these two points: 
internal and private preference, and that external and public preference 
which is manifested in the arrangements for the governance of the 
monastery or the appointment of officials. Motives drawn from natural 
sympathy, from relationship, from common origin, are insufficient 
grounds for any distinction of persons whatever. Also it is not enough 
that a man be agreeable, well brought up, of noble extraction, or have 
formerly been in high station, that he should therefore be summoned 
to an important charge; no more is age an adequate ground. In this 
matter the Abbot s responsibilities are far graver than when it is a 
matter of preferences which concern only individuals. To complete 
this subject we may add that the Abbot should never allow a foreign 
influence to be established at his side, whether in an individual or a 
group, to which he submits or with which he must count. There may 
be danger of this happening if the Abbot is by character impressionable, 
if he be somewhat weak, or is growing old. Such partial abdication of 
authority causes a vague sentiment of trouble and insecurity which 

1 Lev. xix. 15; Prov. xxiv. 23; James ii. i ff. Cf. S. Tb., II. -II., q. Ixiii. 

2 For example; Reg. I., SS. PATRUM, xvi.; Reg. Orientalis, I.; above all the letter of 
ST. C^SARIUS, ad Oratoriam Abbatissam (HOLSTENIUS, op. cit., P. III., p. 31-32). 

3 Cf. Deut. x. 17; Job xxxiv. 19. 

44 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

souls are found to feel. We prefer, instinctively, to obey one man 
rather than several. The Abbot alone is responsible, and it is to him 
and him only, and not to any subsequent influence, that his children are 
entrusted. He must have his own ideas, he must know what he wants, 
and he must make for his end gently, yet without allowing himself to be 
turned aside by sympathy or foolish tenderness, by pusillanimity or 

St. Benedict borrows from St. Paul (i Cor. xii. 13 ; Gal. iii. 28) 
the lofty motive in virtue of which all have the same radical right to the 
affection of the Abbot. It is still true that once before baptism and 
in the life of the world there were both Jew and Gentile, Greek and 
barbarian, freeman and slave, man and woman; but with baptism and 
faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, all these distinctions vanish; and in spite 
of the diversity of our individual circumstances, in spite of the plurality 
of our natures, we are all one in Our Lord Jesus Christ. The same 
divine sonship is enjoyed by all, the same blood circulates in all veins, 
all have the same name, the same spirit, the same nourishment, the same 
life. This levelling is accomplished, not by the degradation of any, 
but by the elevation of all to the stature of Our Lord: "unto the 
measure of the age of the fulness of Christ " (Eph. iv. 13). All have 
the same freedom and the same nobility, all likewise have the same 
glorious servitude, which is worth more than all kingdoms (i Cor. vii. 
22). In natural society distinctions of caste still exist; but they dis 
appear in the wholly supernatural society of the monastic family. We 
are all nothing but soldiers, performing the same service under the 
standard of the same Lord. So the Abbot must regard his monks only 
as God regards them. 

The same principle, moreover, will allow the Abbot not to take 
literally and materially the precept : " let him make no distinction of 
persons in the monastery." It is not required of him that he should 
reduce all to a dead level, aim at a mathematical equality and apportion 
offices by chance. In this new world, where all are equal and one, 
God Himself makes use of discrimination and distinction; His tenderness 
goes out to those who more resemble His Son, who are more deeply 
grafted into Him; He does not give the same confidence to all, for there 
are manifold functions to be fulfilled in the great body of the Church 
and they need various aptitudes. So the Abbot may show greater affec 
tion for him whom he believes better that is, as St. Benedict defines 
it, one who is more obedient, more humble, and richer in good works. 
Beauty is the cause of affection; where there is greater beauty, there is 
ground for more affection. Yet the Abbot must guard against delusion, 
though this is a matter for his own conscience. Likewise he shall 
appoint to offices at his pleasure, provided that he takes care that 
there is fitness, a real proportion between the office and its holder. A 
reasonable cause, merit, and justice, will allow him to make some excep 
tions to the law of order as defined in Chapter LXIIL, where each holds 
the position that corresponds with his entry into religion. The freeman 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be 45 

or noble, ingenuus, shall not have, as such, any advantage over him who 
comes from servitude, but other reasons may commend him to the 
choice of the Abbot, and his former nobility must not be reason for 
disgrace. No more may low birth be such a stigma. Whatever may 
be the social rank of a monk he may become the object of a justifiable 
distinction: "let him advance one of any rank whatever." But the 
general principle remains : there must be the same affection for all, the 
same line of conduct with respect to all, while at the same time account 
is taken of the merit of each. (The word disciplina has various meanings 
in the Rule.) 1 

In doctrina namque sua Abbas For the Abbot in his doctrine 

apostolicam debet illam semper for- ought always to observe the rule of the 

mam servare, in qua dicitur: Argue, Apostle, wherein he says: "Reprove, 

obsecra, increpa. Id est, miscens tern- entreat, rebuke " : suiting his action 

poribus tempora, terroribus blandi- to circumstances, mingling gentleness 

menta, dirum magistri, pium patris with severity; showing now the rigour 

ostendat affectum: id est, indisciplina- of a master, now the loving affection 

tos et inquietos debet durius arguere; of a father, so as sternly to rebuke the 

obedientes autem, et mites et patientes, undisciplined and restless, and to 

ut melius proficiant, obsecrare; negli- exhort the obedient, mild, and patient 

gentes autem et contemnentes, ut to advance in virtue. And such as are 

increpet et corripiat, admonemus. negligent and haughty we charge him 

Neque dissimulet peccata delinquen- to reprove and correct. Let him not 

tium, sed mox, ut coeperint oriri, radici- shut his eyes to the faults of offenders; 

tus ea, ut praevalet, amputet, memor but as soon as they appear, let him 

periculi Heli sacerdotis de Silo. strive, as he has the authority for that, 

to root them out, remembering the 
fate of Heli, the priest of Silo. 

The Abbot s government must be equitable; but it will only be so 
on condition that it is judicious. It is possible seriously to misunder 
stand the counsel of equity. There are people who have condensed 
their experience, which is often superficial and brief, into 
practical principles, formulas simple and easy of application. To 
resolve any concrete case that presents itself, they apply the formula, 
brutally. The method is one and invariable. It leaves the conscience 
at peace, sometimes even when the measures taken are devastating in 
their effect. We are all more or less imprisoned in our personality; 
we see all others through its medium; we are persuaded that measures 
which have succeeded with ourselves ought to suit all. Yet we cannot 
treat a living being as an abstraction; men are not the proper subject 
of experiments; each man is himself a little universe. Instead of 

1 This paragraph of the Rule recalls a passage in ST. JEROME : Nescit religio nostra 
personas accipere nee conditiones boniinum, sed ammos inspicit rittgtiloTitiH. Servum et 
nobilem de moribus pronuntiat. Sola apud Deum liber tas est, non servire peccatis. Sumna 
apud Deum est nobilitas, clarum esse viriutibus. . . . Frustra sibi aliquis de ncbilitate 
generis applaudit, cum universi paris honoris et ejusdetn apud Deum pretn sint, gut uno 
Cbristi sanguine sunt redempti ; nee interest qua quis conditione natus sit, cum omnts in 
Christo cequaliter renascamur. Nam et si obliviscimur quta ex uno omnes generati 
saltern id semper mcminisse debemus quia per unum ownes regeneramur. (Epist* 
ad Celantiam, 21. P.L., XXII., 1214). 

46 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

making a man enter incontinent into our own system, and imprisoning 
him in our mental mould, it would be far better to try to know him, 
to see what he has in his heart, how he thinks and wills and suffers. 
Perhaps the true method here is to have no method. Since the Abbot 
is the depositary of the power of God, he ought to imitate the discretion 
and pliancy of Providence, which disposes all things with as much 
sweetness as force, and which, according to the words of theology, 
adapts itself wonderfully to the nature of the individual: Unicuique 
providet Deus secundum modum sucz natures. 

" In his doctrine " : that is, in general, practical teaching, the guidance 
and government of souls, but St. Benedict has especially in view the 
duty of correction. He alludes to the advice which St. Paul gave to 
Timothy: "Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: 
reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine " (2 Tim. iv. 2). 
Reprove, entreat, rebuke: these are three different attitudes, necessitated 
by the very diversity of the characters to which the correction is ad 
dressed, 1 and corresponding to the three kinds of souls which our Holy 
Father enumerates a few lines farther on: for the first kind, reproof; 
for the second, exhortation; for the third, rebuke and punishment. 
But, before going into detail about this matter, St. Benedict reminds 
the Abbot of the variety and complexity of his role. Miscens temporibus 
tempora. The phrase is not easy to translate; it means that the Abbot 
ought to measure his action according to the circumstances of time, 
place, and person, to behave according to the conjuncture, to remember 
that there is a time for everything (Eccles. iii.), sometimes to use severity, 
sometimes gentleness : in one word, to model his mood according to the 
varying moods of each. The words which follow make St. Benedict s 
thought quite clear: the Abbot shall mingle caresses with threats, 
shall at one time display the severity of a master, at another the more 
loving attitude of a father. 2 

It is with the purpose of helping the Abbot in the discerning of 
spirits that our Holy Father divides them into three classes. " The 
undisciplined and restless : " 3 these are not so because they are formal 
rebels against discipline, but because they are like children, fickle and 
unquiet. They promise and do not perform; one has always to begin 
anew with them. Their intellect is not sufficiently developed, and they 
only obey impulses of sense; the intellect of another will come to their 
help, and they may be reached by their sensibility w 7 ho are approachable 
in no other way. Such natures should feel the yoke, and they will be 
the less tempted to revolt the more they feel the weight of discipline. 
With them one must speak loud and clear, and sometimes not be con 
tent with exhortations, as shall be said presently. 

1 ... Dicente Apostolo : Argue, obsecra, increpa, cum omni patientia etdoctrina. . . 
Decernendum est ab illo qui praest, qualiter circa singulos debeat pietatis affectum mons- 
trare, et qualiter tenere debeat disciplinam (Reg. I., SS. PATRUM, V.). 

2 Cf. S. BASIL., Reg.fus., xliii.; Reg. contr., xxiii. 

3 Two of ST. BASIL S words (Reg. contr., xcviii.): Tanquam inquietus et indisciplina- 
fus confundatur. 

What Kina of Man the Abbot ought to be 47 

It is pleasanter to have to deal with the " obedient, mild, and 
patient"; and, thank God, these are the most numerous. It is only 
necessary to entreat them paternally, and to exhort them to the good 
and the better way. True monks have a quick ear, they understand 
half-sentences and obey at a mere sign, thus sparing the Abbot the 
disagreeableness of a reprimand. 

This is necessary, however, when men are deliberately negligent, or 
resolutely contemptuous. These are dangerous folk, because they 
always have a bad influence, not on the monks who hold fast to God, 
but on temperaments which are rather changeable, distracted, of 
inferior mould; they are, besides, a source of irritation for all and a 
nuisance. " The negligent and haughty " : their past has been spent 
in a long course of inobservance and to that their present remains 
fixed; if you try to attack this second nature, you will be startled to meet 
a fierce energy in characters whose essence you thought was softness. 
They expend more vigour in defence of their relaxation, against the 
efforts of the Abbot and the manifest disapproval of their brethren, 
than would be necessary for a resolute observance of the Rule. Or 
they become soured and discontented and give way to the spirit of 
contradiction; they have more than their share of spleen. Some minds 
are so made that they are always in love with the solution that has not 
won acceptance; it is fine, I know, to be the champion of the unsuccess 
ful, but it is often embarrassing. In other cases there is a profound 
conviction that one has been misunderstood; no one in the community 
does justice to our worth or services. Undoubtedly it is the secret 
tendency of all men to value themselves much; but there are natures 
which value only themselves. They spend their lives in argument. 
They have a ready-made opinion on every subject and naively suppose 
that they are always right in every matter and against everybody. 
The idea never enters their heads that their opponent may have some 
thing to say for himself, and that their personal infallibility may be 
slightly at fault. So they summon the whole community to the bar 
of their minds and deliver a contemptuous and summary judgement, 
sometimes not without abusive terms. It is worth noting that they 
are often those who would have been incapable of steering a wise course 
in the world, for they lack judgement and their temperament leads 
them to all sorts of ineptitudes. They were gathered in with goodness 
and with pity; they came all broken and sick; the measure of indulgent 
kindness overflowed for them. And , suddenly, behold them endowed 
with the ability and power which they lacked: they become critics, 
authorities, reformers. St. Benedict warns the Abbot to deal with them 
resolutely and suppress them with vigour. 

Yet our Holy Father is not blind to the painful side of this office. 
It is always a difficult thing to face the inobservant monk, to take him 
by the throat and say, as Nathan did to David, " Thou art that man." 
It is so pleasant not to make oneself trouble and to have a quiet life. 
And then one may say: It will do no good. I have spoken before. 

48 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

To speak again is only to play the part of a Cassandra. There will be 
a scene, tears, a week of obstinate ill-humour, a violent ferment of 
rebellious thoughts, perhaps even the wish to break with a life which 
has become unbearable. Then is created this terrible situation: on 
one side timidity and reserve, on the other an attitude of defence and 
defiance and the disposition of the " deaf asp that stoppeth her ears " 
for fear of hearing. There is no worse misfortune for a soul than this 
of having forced truth to be silent, of having as it were discouraged 
God. Henceforth He keeps an awful silence and is provoked no 

The Abbot will not fail of excuses to justify his saying nothing. 
Does not moral theology allow that there are circumstances in which 
it is better not to instruct, since the only result of knowledge would be 
to make a material sin into a formal one ? Certainly it does; but it 
also recognizes that this privilege of silence no longer obtains when 
a community would suffer harm, scandal, and disgrace. The Abbot 
may not shut his eyes systematically: " let him not shut his eyes to the 
faults of offenders "; x he is bound to speak and to do his duty, even when 
others refuse to do theirs. A word gracefully spoken and tempered 
with charity always does its work. Further, St. Benedict requires the 
Abbot not to delay, not to wait until he is absolutely constrained by 
the urgency of the danger; as soon as evil customs begin to appear he 
must cut them down vigorously, to the roots, radicitus amputet : 2 this 
is the only true mercifulness. 3 Ut prcevalet is variously translated : 
sometimes " as is better," or " as it is in his power "; better, " since he 
has received authority for that purpose." 

In order to convince the Abbot our Holy Father asks him to remem 
ber the tragic story of Heli (i Kings ii.-iv.). The high-priest had not 
spared warnings to his wicked sons; but he had the power, and the Lord 
required him not only to reprimand but also to amputate and destroy. 
We know the results of his weakness : a bloody defeat of the Israelites, 
the death of the guilty, his solitary death, the profanation of the Ark 
of the Covenant, which fell into the hands of the enemy, the disgrace 
of the whole race. Faults which are tolerated have to be expiated 
just as much as others, but the whole family expiates them. Though 
the threat be a veiled one, the responsibility of the Abbot is clearly 
stated. Monastic houses rarely perish of hunger; they die of wounds 
which have not been cared for, where none has ministered strengthening 
wine or assuaging oil, of wounds which grow and fester. And if any 
thing at all remains of such houses, it is but a mean and sorry plant, 
of which the Lord will not consent to make further use. 4 

1 Dissimulas pcccata hominum (Sap., xi. 24). 

2 ... Radicitus amputavit (CASS., Conlat., XVI., vi.). 

3 Cf. S. BASIL., Reg. Jus. , xxiv., xxv.; Reg. contr., xvii., xxii. 

* What St. Benedict says here about correction furnished the matter of the third 
book of St. Gregory the Great s Regula Pastoralis ; the whole work is, moreover, only 
an extended commentary on the present chapter. 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be 49 

Et honestiores quidem atque in- Those of good disposition and 

telligibiles animos prima vel secunda understanding let him correct, for the 

admonitione verbis corripiat; impro- first or second time, with words only ; 

bos autem et duros ac superbos vel but such as are froward and hard of 

inobedientes, verberum vel corporis heart, and proud, or disobedient, let 

castigatione in ipso initio peccati him chastise with bodily stripes at the 

coerceat, sciens scriptum: Stultus verbis very first offence, knowing that it is 

non corrigitur. Et iterum: Per cute written: " The fool is not corrected 

filium tuum virga, et liber obis animam with words." And again: " Strike 

ejys a morte thy son with the rod, and thou shah 

deliver his soul from death." 

So the Abbot must resign himself to the duty of correcdon. Yei 
he must correct with wisdom, without suffering himself to be cariicd 
away by his temperament or zeal; St. Benedict repeats this advice, 
by explaining in detail what must be the nature of the correction, ot 
which hitherto he has spoken only in a general manner. In this passage 
he indicates only two character groups, but the two coincide with the 
previous three. With refined and intelligent natures one should not 
resort to severity at once; a verbal reprimand will suffice for the first 
and second time. But as for those of coarse nature, hard of heart or 
rude, proud and refractory, they must be tamed by the rod or by some 
such bodily chastisement, and that as soon as their evil habit begins 
to show itself. 

Our Holy Father furnishes us immediately with a reason for these 
vigorous measures of repression: "He who lacks intelligence cannot be 
corrected by words." He is thinking of Proverbs : " A slave will not be 
corrected by words " (xxix. 19. See also xviii. 2). Holy Scripture 
considers that the child has a right to correction, he must get it as he 
must get nourishment, and he will not die of it; on the contrary he will 
live the true life: " Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou 
strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with 
the rod: and deliver his soul from hell" (Prov. xxiii. 13, 14). "He 
that spareth the rod, hateth his son " (Prov. xiii. 24). In his De 
Institutions Oratorio. Quintilian, teacher of Domitian s great-nephews, 
lays it down that the child should be accustomed to virtue even before 
knowing what it is. He must be given certain associations of ideas. 
We know that for ourselves goodness first meant caresses and sweetmeats, 
while to be bad brought dry bread, the whip, or detention. And we 
need not blush at these humble beginnings of our moral life. It is 
not at all impossible that the general deterioration of character is due 
to a certain lack of virility in repression. When the child is not seven, 
we ask: " Why punish him ? he is so young." When he is eight, " Why 
punish him ? he is so big." And so it is always either too soon or too 
late to teach the child his duty and the function of mortification in 
the Christian life; thus are made tyrants and little monsters. Since 
St. Benedict s day characters and customs have changed. There are 
undoubtedly fewer children or barbarians in a modern monastery; and 
in any case the rod and the prison, which were much in vogue for long 


50 Commentary on the Rule of Sf. Benedict 

centuries of monasticism, have vanished from our midst. Yet one may 
still meet spoilt children, or wild and rebellious characters, for whom 
certain bodily punishments would be a sovereign remedy. 

However, the Abbot must remember the precept of Chapter LXIV. : 
" Let him cut them off prudently and with chanty, in the way he shall 
see best for each." Souls more often need carrying than driving. 
A monastery is not a sort of forge with the Abbot, like a cyclops, 
fanning the flame. Moral reform and spiritual development are not 
achieved by a succession of violent and rapid movements. There is 
with souls, as with God, a slowness which the Abbot must respect. 

Meminisse debet semper Abbas, The Abbot ought always to re- 
quod est, meminisse quod dicitur, et member what he is, and what he is 
scire quia cui plus committitur, plus called, and to know that to whom 
ab eo exigitur: sciatque quam diffici- more is committed, from him more is 
lem et arduam rem suscepit, regere required; and he must consider how 
animas, et multorum servire moribus. difficult and arduous a task he has 
Et alium quidem blandimentis, alium undertaken, of ruling souls and adapt- 
vero increpationibus, alium suasionibus, ing himself to many dispositions. Let 
et secundum uniuscujusque qualitatem him so accommodate and suit himself 
vel intelligentiam, ita se omnibus con- to the character and intelligence of 
formet et aptet, ut non solum detri- each, winning some by kindness, others 
menta gregis sibi commissi non patia- by reproof, others by persuasion, that 
tur, verum etiam in augmentatione boni he may not only suffer no loss in the 
gregis gaudeat. flock committed to him, but may even 

rejoice in their virtuous increase. 

It is said of Moses, in the Book of Numbers (xii. 3), that he was 
meekest of all men that dwelt upon the earth; and yet it is plain that 
on some occasions his cup of wrath was full to overflowing. But he 
had the lofty good sense and supernatural spirit not to lose patience 
except in the presence of the Lord. That happened to him at the 
" graves of lust " (Num. xi. 34), when the people, weary of the manna, 
set themselves to lamentation and weeping, as they remembered the 
fish that they ate in Egypt. The Lord was angry, and to Moses also the 
thing seemed intolerable. So he said to the Lord: "Why hast thou 
laid the weight of all this people upon me ? Have I conceived all this 
multitude or begotten them, that thou shouldst say to me: Carry 
them in thy bosom, as the nurse is wont to carry the little infant . . . ? 
I am not able alone to bear all this people, because it is too heavy for 
me. But if it seem unto thee otherwise, I beseech thee to kill me " 
(Num. xi. 11-15). One might say that St. Benedict expected some 
secret protestation to take its rise in the Abbot s heart also, in view of 
the truly superhuman programme which he has just elaborated so calmly. 
And it seems too that at this point the Rule might have slipped in some 
word of encouragement, as is its wont, so as to lessen and calm the 
anxieties of the Abbot; but St. Benedict has no consideration for him, 
and all the concluding portion of the chapter has no other purpose 
than to hold him forcibly to the austere contemplation of his duty. 

St. Benedict practically says: You have a heavy task. You must 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be 51 

be always remembering what you are, and remembering the name that 
men give you: you are Abbot, men call you Father. You are not a 
prince, nor a great noble, nor a civil governor: you are a Father. This 
whole family is yours. God has entrusted it to you, as a deposit dear 
to His heart, and in His sight souls have an infinite value. The Master 
of our life makes use of it as He will: on some He showers His tenderness, 
to others He gives His confidences; there is the sweet and simple 
vocation of John, there is the vocation of Peter; and we do not choose. 
Let the Abbot also remember the judgement of God; His trusts have 
ever to be accounted for. God does not give His gifts to men to be 
their sport; authority, influence, wealth are talents entrusted to us, and 
He will demand from us interest on them in rigorous and judicial 
terms : more has been entrusted to you, from you more shall be required 
(Luke xii. 48). l 

And the Abbot must know how difficult and arduous a task he 
has received of ruling souls and of making himself the servant of all 
by adapting himselt to the character of each. Men often seem little 
concerned to lighten his burden; in a monastery all passions that are 
unmortified and therefore are sources of suffering, discharge themselves 
on the Abbot, as it were naturally. But St. Benedict has no thought 
of this irregular addition to his task; according to him the task is already 
a delicate one because it has to do with souls. In a material substance 
change may be foreseen and is not due to caprice; but a spiritual being 
does not act mechanically; there is need of light and patience to know 
it well and adjust oneself to it. Then how different are souls from one 
another ! Manifold causes, and these of the sensible order, co-operate 
to make of each something very personal indeed; heredity, or a first 
vital pulsation given by the soul to the body, which starts with it, 
determining in some sort the whole trend of our lives, or a subjection, 
whether passive or deliberate, to animal tendencies all these make our 
temperament. Each soul has to free itself, to redeem itself, from 
tendencies of sense, by education, by vigorous effort, by the supernatural 
life which devotes the whole activity to God. The authority of the 
Abbot is given us precisely in order to help us to win this self-possession. 
It is the Abbot s business to proportion his action to the moral disposi 
tions of each. One man needs kind words and caresses, another rebuke 
and punishment, a third persuasion; in a word, each should be treated 
according to his temper and degree of intelligence. There is no I 
clearer mark of the family character of the monastery than this insistence 
by St. Benedict that the Abbot should know his subjects and lead each 
of them individually. 

It is this too that limits the size of a community: for if the monks 
are legion, the Abbot will only be a commander-in-chief, constructing 
a summary plan which his officials put into execution. Yet the Abbot 

1 St. Benedict may have taken his inspiration direct from the Doctrina S. ORSIESII, 
xv. (see D. BUTLER S note); or from ST. JEROME, Epist. XIV. 9. PX., XXII., 353; or 
from ST. AUGUSTINE, Ouastioncs in tie-plat.^ 1. III., xxxi. P.L., XXXIV. (C 8^-690). 

52 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

is not forbidden to think about the increase of his flock. And it is 
certainly of increase in numbers that St. Benedict speaks in the word 
augmentatio^ while at the same time suggesting the idea of increase in 
virtue: boni gregis. We should understand him well. When he 
recommends the Abbot to put himself aside and skilfully to condescend, 
so that he may suffer no loss in his sheep, he does not make any promise 
or put it forward as a sure effect; he is merely indicating the intentions 
which should guide his conduct. And how might the Abbot hope for 
such success as the Lord Himself has not obtained ? There are souls 
whom neither patience nor tenderness nor severity can win, and for 
whom one can do nothing but pray and endure. St. Benedict would 
seem to say to the Abbot : Would you rejoice in the increase of a faithful 
flock ? Well, take good care of the souls entrusted to you, busy yourself 
with what you have; so will you get what you have not yet. Fervent 
monasteries do their recruiting of themselves, and that much more by the 
good odour of their observance than by any human methods or indis 
creet propaganda. God so disposes events and hearts, that His family 
grows unceasingly; and if at times recruitment languishes or stops, 
we must not lose confidence: as at the beginnings of Citeaux, a St. 
Bernard will come with numerous companions. 

Ante omnia, ne dissimulans aut par- Above all let him not, overlooking 
vipendens salutem animarum sibi com- or undervaluing the salvation of the 
missarum, plus gerat sollicitudinem de souls entrusted to him, be more solici- 
rebus transitoriis, et terrenis atque tous for fleeting, earthly, and perishable 
caducis; sed semper cogitet quia animas things; but let him ever bear in mind 
suscepit regendas, de quibus et ratio- that he has undertaken the government 
nem redditurus est. Et ne causetur of souls, of which he shall have to give 
forte de minori substantia, meminerit an account. And that he may not 
scriptum: Primum quants regnum Dei complain for want of worldly substance, 
et justitiam ejus, et heec omnia adjicien- let him remember what is written : 
tur vobis. Et iterum: Nibil deest ti- " Seek first the kingdom of God and 
mentibus eum. his justice, and all these things shall 

be added unto you." And again: 
" Nothing is wanting to them that fear 

The Abbot s solicitude must not go astray on false tracks. It will 
not allow itself to be distracted by too great preoccupation with the 
matter of vocations, or by financial and material cares. In this last 
matter the temptation may be more insistent and treacherous, and it 
is for this reason that our Holy Father lays more stress on it. We must 
live, we must grow, we must pay our debts, we must build. And for 
these purposes we must make ourselves known, secure high and pro 
ductive connections, write books and sell them, work the monastery 
lands profitably, purchase property and so on; we must, in a word, 
enter again on a mass of business affairs which it seemed that we had 
given up by the religious state. 

It is obvious that the Abbot could not be careless of the finances 
of the monastery without imprudence and a sort of treason : his vigilance 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to be 53 

and effort in this matter are a duty to the community. To understand 
this point it is sufficient to reflect on the innumerable evils which are 
caused by negligence; it is not at all desirable for our good name that we 
should pass through the bankruptcy courts. And not only must we 
live, but a certain margin is indispensable, so that all may go well and 
the monks remain faithful to poverty. Disorder, excessive expenditure, 
dilapidation, carelessness of the morrow these cannot be regarded as 
the true type of abbatial government. 

Nevertheless, what St. Benedict insists on is that the care of material 
interests must never cause the Abbot to neglect or treat as a secondary 
matter, which he may readily throw off on to other shoulders, the forma 
tion and eternal salvation of the souls entrusted to him: " overlooking 
or undervaluing." The true wealth of a monastery is its souls; and 
compared with them how little worth are those " fleeting, earthly, 
and perishable things." 1 Undoubtedly the Abbot ought to be a wise 
administrator in temporals, because they have a sacred character from 
the fact of their belonging to the Lord; but souls belong to God more 
nearly still, and it is for these as well, and for these above all, that he will 
have to render an account : semper cogitet quia animas suscepit regendas, 
de quibus et rationem redditurus est. 2 " 

And, lest the Abbot should be tempted to allege the slenderness of 
the resources of the monastery, let him remember what is written in 
St. Matthew (vi. 33) and in the Psalm (xxxiii. 10). God has given His 
word. If the house be fervent, resources like vocations will come, in 
God s good time and according to His measure. The Lord gives what is 
necessary to monasteries which are faithful and which He loves; some 
times a little less, so that comfortable circumstances may not incline 
monks and Abbot to dispense with trust in God. Men of the world 
ask us: Is it not true that some phrases of the sixth chapter of St. 
Matthew seem to go beyond the laws of human prudence ? What is 
their true sense ? It is this : God wishes to lead us to be trustful and 
to the conviction that no anxiety should prevail over this trustfulness; 
for this end He makes use of various examples calculated to inspire it, 
but yet without telling us that we are dispensed from action : after all, 
the lilies and the birds are active. We may well believe that there are 
refinements which the world cannot grasp, evangelical counsels which 
cannot be realized save in the monastery, more enfranchised as it is from 
created conditions and belonging more to God. And it is because 
of the supreme jurisdiction exercised by Providence over those who 
belong to it, that trustfulness becomes a law, more immediately perhaps 
than prudence : for, when all is said, trust in God is a theological virtue, 
prudence a moral virtue; and, while I am not bound to keep the rules of 
prudence semper et pro semper, I am never dispensed from absolute trust. 

1 (Prima causa] discidii. qua nasci solet de rebus caducis atque terrenis (CASS., Conlat. 
XVI., .). 

2 Semper cogitans (praposita) Deo se pro vobis reddituram esse rationem (S. AUG., 
Epist. CCXI., 15. P.L., XXXIII., 965). Doctr. S. ORSIESII, xi, 

54 Commentary on the Rule of Sf. Benedict 

Sciatque quia qui suscepit animas And let him know that he who 

regendas, praeparet se ad rationem red- has undertaken the government of 
dendam. Et quantum sub cura sua souls, must prepare himself to render 
fratrum se habere scierit numerum, an account of them. And whatever 
agnoscat pro certo quia in die judicii may be the number of the brethren 
ipsarum omnium animarum est reddi- under his care, let him be certainly 
turus Domino rationem, sine dubio assured that on the Day of Judgement 
addita et suae animae. Et ita timens he will have to give an account to the 
semper futuram discussionem pastoris Lord of all these souls, as well as of 
de creditis ovibus, cum de alienis ratio- his own. And thus, being ever fearful 
ciniis cavet, redditur de suis sollicitus. of the coming judgement of the shep- 
Et cum de admonitionibus suis emenda- herd concerning the state of the 
tionem aliis subministrat, ipse efficitur flock committed to him, while he is 
a vitiis emendatus. careful on other men s accounts, he 

will be solicitous also on his own. 
And so, while correcting others by his 
admonitions, he will be himself cured 
of his own defects. 

Our Holy Father is not afraid of repeating himself when he wants 
to remind the Abbot of the value of souls, of the delegated character 
of his power, and of the strict judgement which awaits him. At the 
tribunal of God every man will have to answer for himself, but the 
Abbot will have to answer for himself and for all the souls committed 
to his care, for each one in particular: this is incontestable, indubitable, 
pro certo, sine dubio. One would have to be senseless, or have lost the 
faith, not to be impressed by such a declaration. And likewise one 
would need a strong dose of delusion to want to take on one s shoulders 
such a burden, and to the problems of one s own soul superadd those 
of others. 

Since the Abbot has consented, on the invitation of God, to make 
himself the servant of all; since his daily bread is work, anxiety, and 
suffering, he has assuredly some right to the prayers of his monks and 
to their compassion. It is on the ground of the responsibility assumed 
by priests and bishops that the Apostle St. Paul, in a text which our 
Holy Father doubtless remembered, begs Christians to repay by obe 
dience and loving docility the devotion and benefits they have received : 
" Obey your prelates and be subject to them. For they watch as being 
to render an account of your souls : that they may do this with joy and 
not with grief. For this is not expedient for you " (Heb. xiii. 17). 
Make the exercise of their charge easy and sweet; cause them to fulfil it 
with joy and not with sadness, for that will in no way be advantageous 
to yourselves; the weariness caused in an Abbot by a difficult and 
discontented community issues always in serious detriment to the 

If it is true that Abbots make their monks, it is certain that monks 
make their Abbot, and that the monastery is a school of mutual sanctifi- 
cation. The last two sentences of this chapter remind the Abbot of 
this point, if not to reassure him, for they are still austere, at least to 
strengthen his courage. The constant thought of the judgement 

What Kind of Man the Abbot ought to ^e 5 5 

which the shepherd 1 will one day have to face in respect of the sheep 
entrusted to him, the care which he takes in putting other people s 
accounts in order, will make him more attentive to his own account: 
so the first benefit of his charge will be his own growth in interior 
watchfulness. The very fact that he has to carry other souls naturally 
leads him to watch over himself. A man might give himself some 
freedom if he were independent of others ; but he is more careful when 
he is the father of a family, and the deputy of God, when weaknesses 
such as were once his would now have a formidable effect and would 
find an echo in the lives of others. Being bound to seek the amendment 
of others by his instructions, the Abbot will at the same time set himself 
free of his own defects and redouble the fidelity of his life. Those for 
whom the duty of preaching is more than a vain amusement are always 
the first to reap the fruit of their words. We love harmony and moral 
unity; and influenced by this more than by the desire to avoid the 
sentence, " Physician, heal thyself," we labour little by little to put 
our actions in accord with our teaching. 

The Abbot has a greater compensation of which St. Benedict does 
not speak: the profit which he wins from constant contact with good 
souls. This contact is the most wholesome that there is, and resembles 
a sacrament. It is partly that such souls are to the Abbot an encourage 
ment and an example, but chiefly that they are for him a sort of antici 
pated vision of God. The greater the effect and the nearer to its cause, 
so much the more perfect is the knowledge we get of the cause; and here 
the effect is not only that work of God, a spiritual soul, but also all the 
means, which God takes to transform it and unite it to His beauty. So 
may the Abbot find herein a true theology. And, until the day when he 
shall contemplate God face to face, he will nowhere see Him more 
clearly than in souls, in the living crystal of their purity. He will not 
find it hard then to keep very close to Our Lord, wherein is his sole 
safeguard and most sure consolation. 

1 The Abbot is meant here, rather than the Divine Pastor. 



TRIBUS. Quoties aliqua praecipua agen 
da sunt in monasterio, convocet Abbas 
omnem congregationem, et dicat ipse 
unde agitur. Et audiens consilium 
fratrum, tractet apud se, et quod utilius 
judicaverit facial. Ideo autem omnes 
ad consilium vocari diximus, quia saepe 
junior! Dominus revelat quod melius 

As often as any important matters 
have to be transacted in the monastery, 
let the Abbot call together the whole 
community, and himself declare what 
is the question to be settled. And, 
having heard the counsel of the breth 
ren, let him weigh it within himself, 
and then do what he shall judge most 
expedient. We have said that all 
should be called to council, because 
it is often to the younger that the Lord 
reveals what is best. 

THIS chapter fixes the constitution of the monastic body by defining 
the role which belongs to each member. Our Holy Father s 
purpose is not that of applying restrictions, limits, or counter 
poises to the absolute power of the Abbot, for he never dreamt 
of introducing into his work the forms of democracy or parliamentary 
government; all the directions which we are just to read seem designed, 
on the contrary, to emphasize the sovereign character of abbatial 
authority, as interpreter and guardian of the authority of the Rule, and 
as a created form of the divine authority. But the depositary of this 
power remains a man, obliged to seek the truth laboriously, obliged 
to discover the best practical solutions, and liable to mistakes. There 
fore, condescending to this weakness, St. Benedict gives him counsellors, 
whose function it is, not to share his power, to control, or on occasion 
to check him, but only to enlighten and support him, and so discreetly 
to prevent mistakes or abuses. One mind cannot exhaust every matter; 
what one man does not perceive another may discover, and affairs thus 
managed with the concert and wisdom of many are more certain of 
success. St. Benedict indicates this motive in concluding the chapter, 
when he cites the witness of Ecclesiasticus (xxxii. 24). 

Our Holy Father distinguishes two classes of matters in which the 
Abbot shall take counsel: pr&cipua and minor a, important and less 
important. For more serious matters he shall summon the whole 
community to council; for less serious matters, which are, however, 
important in their degree, he shall confine himself to consultation with 
the elders. There is a third class of questions which calls for no con 
voking of the brethren; such are, in the first place, matters of detail, and 
next, those which have a predetermined solution, or an evident one, or 
one reserved to the Abbot, or such that the community will not be 
competent to judge. According to our Holy Father it is for the 
Abbot to estimate if it be proper for him to seek advice. Whenever, 

Of Calling the Brethren to Council 57 

for example, the good name of the community or its financial interests 
are seriously concerned, he should summon the whole community. 

And in desiring the presence of all 1 St. Benedict obeys an inspiration 
of faith. God is actively interested in the affairs of a monastic house; 
He presides over it, and every wise decision should be imputed to Him 
(Matt, xviii. 20). Why, then, exclude the newly professed or the young 
oblates who are of an age to speak (see Chapter LIX.) ? Is it not matter 
of experience that the Lord loves to communicate His thought to us 
by the mouths of little children ? 2 The young are more natural, less 
individual, and God acts more freely through them. He made use of 
a Samuel and of a Daniel (see Chapter LXIIL); and at Monte Cassino 
He used St. Maurus and St. Placid. But the young monk would at 
once lose the benefit of this divine predilection, if he failed in moderation, 
courtesy, and humility in his judgements; if he gave his opinion on 
persons and things with solemnity and importance; if he did not 
stand on his guard against the tendency to formulate harsh and rigid 
decisions; for the outlook of such a one is often limited and narrow, and 
he does not always appreciate the complexity of the matters discussed. 

At the same time it is the Abbot s place to sum up the case. He 
explains the matter clearly, so that all may understand what is discussed. 
He does this without passion and without attempting to extort 
support, since strictly speaking he does not need it. He listens with 
impartiality and patience to the advice of the brethren, which does not 
mean that he must let the long-winded talk indefinitely, or abstain 
from such correction as should be called for by right, by good order, 
or good sense. Then he takes counsel with himself, using the light 
that all have contributed, and decides sovereignly, not that which pleases 
him, nor always the contrary of the suggestions made, but what in 
God s sight he deems best. 

Sic autem dent fratres consilium But let the brethren give their 

cum omni humilitatis subjectione, ut advice with all subjection of humility, 

non praesumant procaciter defendere and not presume stubbornly to defend 

quod eis visum fuerit, sed magis in their own opinion; but rather let the 

Abbatis pendeat arbitrio, ut quod matter rest with the Abbot s discretion, 

salubrius esse judicaverit, ei cuncti that all may submit to whatever he 

obediant; sed sicut discipulis convenit shall consider best. Yet, even as it 

obedire magistro, ita et ipsum provide becomes disciples to obey their master 

et juste condecet cuncta disponere. so does it behove him to order a 

things prudently and with justice. 

If it be good for the Abbot to welcome advice and to practise self- 
abnegation, monks on their side have a strict duty to show themselves 
men of tact, and to be docile sons. The brethren shall give their advice, 
since it is for this that they were assembled; a sulky, cross, and sullen 

1 Novices, not yet belonging to the community (Chap. LVIII.), have no title to 
a part in its deliberations. 

2 Cf. S. CYPRIANI, Epist. IX., iv. PX., IV., 253. CASS., Cnnlat., XVI., xii. 

58 Cowmen tar y on the Rule of St. Benedict 

attitude would be ridiculous and very far from monastic. They shall 
give their advice in turn, when they are asked or when they receive the 
sign. They shall speak with all the submission of humility: cum omni 
humilitatis subjectione, without taking a pompous, magisterial tone, 
without imagining themselves judges or members of Parliament, without 
regarding their opinion as decisive, or believing that the general welfare 
depends largely on them. We may add that it is necessary to keep within 
the scope of the matter in debate, and not to graft some motion or 
amendment on to the precise point that has been submitted for 

It may be that the advice you give wins little acceptance; well, 
you should rejoice that a wiser course is followed, or at least have the 
good manners not to argue bitterly and obstinately for your notion. 
Thank God, men do not argue publicly with the Abbot; but there is 
more danger of a man defending his view against one or other of his 
brethren. A man may be tempted to take up the words of another in 
order to contradict them, sometimes in order to turn them to ridicule, 
and this either openly or in a treacherous and sly fashion. Such a way 
of acting is all the more misguided, as the brother who is attacked 
generally has his mouth closed by charity, or prudence, or official secrecy. 
A monastic assembly should never take the rowdy character of some of 
our parliamentary debates. And, according to the mind of our Holy 
Father, neither individuals, nor a majority, nor even the unanimous 
opinion of the brethren, has a right to make its view prevail; the decision 
is reserved exclusively to the Abbot; 1 he remains free to take that view 
which seems to him most opportune, and all shall hasten to submit to 
it. But, while it is proper that disciples should obey their master, 
it is fitting, too, that the master should dispose all things with foresight 
and equity. There is no parcelling of authority, but there are rights 
on both sides; those who obey are not handed over to arbitrary action, 
to the whims and caprices of passion; and the best guarantee that can 
be given them is this repeated declaration that the Abbot is accountable 
to God, and that, when all is said, he too and he especially must be 

In omnibus igitur omnes magistram Let all, therefore, follow the Rule 

sequantur regulam, neque ab ea temere in all things as their guide, and from 

declinetur a quoquam. Nullus in it let no man rashly turn aside. Let 

monasterio sequatur cordis proprii no one in the monastery follow the 

voluntatem, neque praesumat quis- will of his own heart: nor let anyone 

quam cum Abbate suo proterve intus presume insolently to contend with 

aut foris monasterium contendere. his Abbot, either within or without 

Quod si praesumpserit, regulari dis- the monastery. But if he should 

ciplinae subjaceat. Ipse tamen Abbas dare to do so, let him be subjected to 

cum timore Dei et observatione regulae the discipline appointed by the Rule, 

omnia faciat, sciens se procul dubio de The Abbot himself, however, must do 

1 Per omnia ad nutum (Abbatis] potestatemquc pendere. (SuLP, SEVER., Dial. I., c. ?j 
P.L.,XX., 190. Cf. CASS., Conlat., XXIV., 

Of Calling the Brethren to Council 59 

omnibus judiciis suis aequissimo judici everything with the fear of God, and 
Deo rationem redditurum. in observance of the Rule: knowing 

that he will have without doubt to 
render to God, the most just Judge, an 
account of all his judgements. 

The connection between this paragraph and the preceding one 
is close, as shown by the word igitur, " therefore." No one in the 
monastery may " follow the will of his own heart " and live as he likes. 
The form of our life is fixed by a Rule;-, the Rule is the standard to 
which all must conform, both the monks who give counsel and the 
Abbot who proposes and decides. In the discussion as well as in the 
decision of a matter each must seek inspiration in the Rule and its 
spirit; none may dispense with it without presumption. Supernatural 
prosperity and peace depend upon this submission of all to the same 
ideal and the same programme. 

And since the written Rule needs to be interpreted, since debate 
would sometimes be interminable if a living authority did not intervene 
with decisive power, all discussion should cease when the Abbot has 
made up his mind. He alone is responsible, and he alone has the 
grace of state; he is without doubt better informed than any other, 
because he has the whole situation in his hands, and can envisage all the 
aspects and all the issues of a problem. No one shall be so rash as to 
contend insolently with him, whether within the monastery, or still 
less without it, a thing which would give rise to greater scandal; 1 and, 
both within and without, the brethren shall scrupulously abstain from 
criticizing his decisions. Baffled self-will does not always show itself 
in open resistance, but rather, and this especially with timid or refined 
or well-bred natures, in secret murmurings. A monk can be in no worse 
state than this. The Rule first mentions the " regular discipline " 
(which we shall describe later) for the repression by severe punishment 
of this refractory and censorious spirit. 

But St. Benedict takes great care to remind the Abbot that he also 
has to face a judgement. All his decisions must be made in the fear of 
God, and in conformity with the Rule. He must know well, and without 
shadow of doubt, that he will give account of each one of them to the 
supremely just Judge. God reserves to Himself this business of weighing 
the Abbot s abuse of his independence of judgement, and the vista of a 
divine " regular discipline " will keep the Abbot from every slightest 
inclination to tyranny. 

Si qua vero minora agenda sunt in If it happen that less important 

monasterii utilitatibus, 2 seniorum tan- matters have to be transacted for the 

1 Without doubt the best reading is: proterve ant for is monasterium contender f. 
And D. BUTLER cites the interesting note of SMARAGDUS: Non dixit intus autfons, sicnt 
aliqui codices habent, sed sicut in illo quern manibus suis scripsit, proterve aut forjs 
monasterium reperitur. Unde intclligitur quia foris nullam, intus autem rsse contentioneni 
permisit amicam. It is plain that some scribes and commentators have had difficulties 
with this passage. Cf. PAUL THE DEACON, in b. I. 

* Monasterii utilitas : CASS., Inst,, VII. , ix. 

60 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

turn utatur consilio, sicut scriptum est : advantage of the monastery, let him 
Omnia fac cum consilio, et post factum take counsel with the seniors only, as 
non pesnitebis. it is written: "Do all things with 

counsel, and thou shall not afterwards 

repent it." 

Here is the second case, affairs of less importance, of which we said a 
word at the beginning of the chapter. We should grasp well the mean 
ing of the text from Ecclesiasticus (xxxii. 24). Undoubtedly the Abbot 
should beware of an unlimited confidence in his own competence and 
judgement; absolute power is dangerous, especially for him who wields 
it. Nevertheless we should not take the words " all things " too 
literally. Even when it is a question of important measures, experience 
shows that the Abbot will sometimes do better to consult only his 
own conscience. Moreover, we should note that failure does not 
prove that he has acted rashly. And when Holy Scripture tells him 
that if he takes counsel, he shall not afterwards repent it, it does not 
promise him success and infallibility. Nor does it declare that in case 
of failure he may throw the responsibility on to others and wash his 
hands of the issue. 

Times have changed since St. Benedict. He wrote his Rule with a 
conception of the patria potestas, absolute paternal authority, such as 
was implied in Roman law. Both superiors and monks had a living faith, 
and men submitted very readily to practically absolute government. 
But, by slow process, the old framework has yielded a little under the 
pressure of changing custom. Democracy, if we would speak the 
truth, has no more been introduced into the monastery than it has 
into the Church; but it is undeniable that a greater importance has 
gradually been given to the individual. Undoubtedly, too, sad 
experience has shown to what imprudences a practically absolute power 
may lend itself. The abuse of Commendam forced monks to protect 
themselves against a power for life, without counterpoise and often very 
worldly. For this purpose were invented triennial Abbots and all the 
various means which tended to reduce, and sometimes even to weaken, 
the abbatial authority. The constitutions of each Congregation 
enumerate a certain number of cases in which the Abbot must obtain 
the consent of the Conventual Chapter, of the Council of Seniors, or 
even of General Chapter, and business is often decided by vote. We 
do not think an Abbot has anything to regret in the loss of the freedom 
and initiative of former times. It is enough that present legislative 
arrangements come from the Church for them to deserve to be well 
received; but, to repeat, we must recognize that they have their justifi 
cation in the desire to banish arbitrary and dangerous measures. Yet, 
in communities which are wisely governed and which have a good spirit, 
things go on always much as they did in the days of St. Benedict: a 
feeling of filial trust causes matters which he knows better than anyone 
else to be left to the decision of the Abbot; conflicts between an Abbot 
and his council are unknown, and all is done in harmonious concord. 



r ^HE preceding chapters have given us the organic structure of 

monastic society. From this point to Chapter VIII. the subject 

is the individual and his means of supernatural perfection, so 

A that we may say that this portion of the Rule is St. Benedict s 

spiritual doctrine and gives monks their spiritual constitution. We 

remember with what insistence our Holy Father declared in the Prologue 

that progress in the Christian life is effected by the practice of good* 

works and the constant exercise of all the virtues; he now describes this 

well-regulated activity. This chapter gives a long list of the principal 

forms in which it is displayed; immediately after come separate chapters 

devoted to the fundamental dispositions of the soul, to obedience, 

recollection, and humility. 

" The Instruments of Good Works." Commentators have exercised 
their sagacity in defining the exact meaning of these words. St. Paul 
the Apostle speaks twice of the armour of a Christian; does our Holy 
Father desire to indicate here the interior qualities with which we should 
be provided habitus activi quibus instruimur in order to accomplish 
all good works ? Or does St. Benedict regard the Scripture texts, of 
which nearly all the sentences of this chapter are formed, as true instru 
ments, as methods of proved efficaciousness, certain to make us practise 
good works ? As though, for the realization of the good, we had but 
to listen to the appeal of God. In a less subtle way one might give to 
the word instrumenta its meaning of legal instruments, and translate, 
" rules of morals, practical principles of good." It means also tools, 
implements, apparatus, resources, and, in the present case, the tools 
with which good is wrought, all the methods and implements of virtue, 
concretely the virtues and good works themselves. This is, it would 
seem, the meaning most in harmony with St. Benedict s thought; for, 
in concluding the chapter, he speaks of the " tools of the spiritual 
craft," and represents the monastery as the " workshop " where a 
man learns to use them; 1 while it is because he is really dealing with 
good works that he can speak of them as adimpleta i.e., fulfilled. 

A word on the sources of this fourth chapter. Almost the entire 
series of instruments is to be found in the second part of the first Decretal 
Epistle of St. Clement; 2 but it has long been recognized 3 that this 
second part is spurious and the work of Isidorus Mercator. There are 

1 Probably a reminiscence of CASSIAN, who says of fasts, vigils, etc., that they are 
perfections instrumenta (Conlat., L, vii.). Elsewhere Cassian speaks of instrumenta 
virtutum (Conlat., VI., x.); and St. Benedict reproduces this expression in the last chapter 
of his Rule. Instrumenta also means documents, records. 

2 P.O., I., 4 80. 

3 MABILLON, Vetera Analecta, t. II., p. 94, note c. (1723 edition). 


6 2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

certainly analogies between St. Benedict s chapter and the beginning 
of the Teaching of the Apostles (reproduced in the seventh book of the 
Apostolic Constitutions); both, for example, commence with the state 
ment of the twofold precept of charity; Dom Butler, however, holds 
that it is impossible to give certain proof of borrowing. 1 One may 
also compare the passage of the Holy Rule with the forty-nine sentences 
published by Cardinal Pitra under the title: Doctrina Hosii episcopi 
(t A.D. 397) f or with the Monita of Porcarius, Abbot of Lerins (at the 
end of the fifth century) ; 3 or again with the Doctrina of a certain Bishop 
Severinus, who has not been identified yet so far as I know. 4 We find 
analogous collections of sentences in the pagan philosophers themselves ; 
see, for example, the Sentences attributed to the Seven Sages of Greece, 5 
the prose Sentences which precede the Disticha Catonis, and the Sentences 
ofSextus, a fragment of which St. Benedict cites in Chapter VII. All 
civilizations have left us specimens of this gnomic literature; the Books 
of Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus belong to this class. We are naturally 
led to express our morality in mottoes, to embody it in practical axioms ; 
it seems to us to make virtue much easier when we achieve a short, 
pithy, and well-turned phrase, which in its very perfection has a gracious 
charm. The old monastic rules were generally composed in this 
short, sententious style. 7 And it is from them, from Holy Scrip 
ture, and to some degree from all sources, that our Holy Father seems 
to have gleaned his seventy-two instruments of good works; it is not yet 
proved that he has only copied, with greater or less modifications, one 
or several previous collections. 

It would be vain to attempt to reduce these instruments to a method 
ical series and to find in them the unfolding of one plan, for St. Benedict 
had nothing of the sort in his mind. He is content to put at the head 
the most important and fundamental, and to group together maxims 
which have the same end and are connected by some analogy. We shall 
notice that maxims of supernatural perfection lie close to essential 
Christian precepts. The reason is that the latter, in their simplicity, 
embrace all moral teaching, and that here, as in the Prologue and in the 
chapters which are to follow, St. Benedict conceives monastic sanctity 
under the form of a regular, normal, and tranquil development of the 
graces of baptism. 

" St. Benedict and the dues via" in the Journal of 1 Geological Studies, January 
1910, p. 282. See also in the same Review, January 1911, p. 261, an article in which 
D. BUTLER discusses the sources of Chapter IV.; he shows that the Syntagma doctrine 
ascribed to ST. ATHANASIUS (P.C., XXVIII., 835) should not be ranked among St 
Benedict s sources. 

2 Analecta sacra et classica, p. 117. 

8 Reprinted in the Revue b.m dictinc, October 1909. See also an old translation of 
ST. BASIL S Admonitio ad monachal, reprinted in the same Review, April 1910. 

* FEZ, Thesaurus Anecdotorum novissimus, t. IV., P. II., col. 1-4; or in FABRICTUS, 
Bibliotheca latina media et infinite cetatis, t. II. (ad calcem). 

5 MULLACTI, Fragments Philosophorum grcecorinn, t. I., p. 212 sq. 

6 Ibid., p-^23 sq.~Cf. WEYMAN, Wochenschriftfi,r klass. Philologie, 1896, p. 209. 

7 See, for instance, the Rules of ST. MACARIUS, ST. PACHOMIUS (clix.), etc 

What arc the Instruments of Good Works 63 


OPERUM. I. Primum Instrumentum: 1 WORKS. I. First Instrument: in the 
In primis, Dominum Deum diligere ex first place to love the Lord God with 
toto corde, tota anima, tota virtute. all one s heart, all one s soul, and 

all one s strength. 

" In the first place " : yes, from every point of view, this is certainly 
the first instrument. For, to begin with, it is a universal precept. 
It is found already in its entirety in the Mosaic Law (Deut. vi. 5); and 
Our Lord had only to recall it (Mark xii. 30). Nevertheless, we cannot 
but see that the New Testament has given it a place of greater honour. 
Under the New Law there came a larger and more intimate outpouring 
of the Spirit of God: " the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, 
by the Holy Ghost who is given to us " (Rom. v. 5); and filial love, 
according to the teaching of the Apostle, is the characteristic mark 
of the New Covenant. 

The precept is comprehensive and complete. It is satisfying to have 
all the duties of the Christian life comprised in one unique obligation. 
The mind is more attentive when it has but one thing to consider; the 
will is more determined when it has but one end to pursue; the soul is 
more serene and more joyously persevering when it has reduced all to 
unity. We are only required to love. In this is summed up all morality. 
" Love and do what you will," said St. Augustine; and before him the 
Apostle, attributing to chanty the acts of all the particular virtues, 
established the truth that charity of itself is sufficient, while without it 
nothing suffices (i Cor. xiii.). 

It is an easy precept, whether we regard its act or its object. A 
man need not be great, or rich, or healthy, or clever, to love. It is 
the most spontaneous and simple of acts; it is an initial act for which 
we have been prepared from infancy, thanks to the smiles and tenderness 
which have enfolded our life; God has provoked it in such a way as to 
make sure of it. The act is easy on the side of its object; for it is as 
natural to love God as it is to know Him, and man s faculties are 
enough of themselves. Of course such a love, in so far as it has not a 
supernatural principle as its root, could not take us to God; yet God is 
naturally lovable. He is so supernaturally on many grounds; He has 
made Himself known to us by the general benefits of Christianity and 
by the revelation of His goodness which is implied in the existence of 
each one of us. He has given us what is needed so that we may love 
Him supernaturally, and render Him an affection equal to His own. 
And He adds the precept: " Thou shalt love "; which precept has its 
own power of making us know and love God, for He only who loves, He 
only who is good and beautiful, has the right to demand love, and He 
only who loves without reservation has the right to demand a love without 
reservation. Truly it is an easy and sweet thing to love God, to love 
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Tenderness and Beauty and Purity Infinite. 

1 The words primum instrumcntum do not occur in the manuscripts; nor is there 
any numbering. of the instruments. 

64 Commentary on the "Rule of St. Benedict 

The sole objection that a man might raise is this: " Granted that 
love is necessary and sufficient, is it easy to love ? I have never encoun 
tered God. 1 have lived for long a stranger to Him and unheeding. 
I do not dispute the reality of His beauty or of His love for me; but all 
that belongs to too spiritual a sphere, to which I hardly have access. 
Moreover, my temperament is positive, rather dry and cold, so that 
the supernatural stirs no emotion in me." This objection is based on 
a false definition of charity. Charity, according to St. Thomas, is a 
friendship between man and God; and we are taught by a pagan that 
true friendship is to wish and to reject the same objects as one s friend: 
Eadem velle, eadem nolle, ea demum firma amicitia est. To love God is 
to wish what God wishes and to do what God demands, it is to unite 
our will practically with His. Is not this the teaching of Our Lord 
Himself in St. Matthew (vii. 20 /.)? " From their fruits you shall know 
them. Not everyone who saith to me : Lord, Lord, shall enter into the 
kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father who is in 
heaven." Neither the fervour of our first days in the spiritual life, nor 
even the purified and very noble pleasure which is the effect of charity 
on the whole man, is necessary or constitutes an infallible indication 
of our intimacy with Our Lord. All these forms of joy are merely 
superadded to charity as an encouragement, or as an advance in our 
salary and inheritance. The fact is that to arrive, if not at sanctity, 
at least at a certain measure of genuine love, we must know how to be 
faithful without pleasure, in aridity, and in the very midst of interior 
disturbances which affect the whole sensitive nature. 

We have only to read farther in the " first instrument " in order 
to appreciate the character and the measure of our charity. We must 
love " with the heart " that is, not necessarily with a love of feeling and 
emotion, but with our inner being. That may seem easy enough. 
Yet there is always danger, in a regular and liturgical life, of loving God 
only with the lips, in the routine of duties fulfilled in a purely formal 
manner. This is the Jewish tendency, many times denounced and 
scourged by the prophets and Our Lord. It may spring from some too 
well loved occupation, which draws off to its own advantage the best of 
our attention and leaves God only the meagre homage of a compulsory 
ceremonial. To love " with all the heart " must be to make charity 
shine in our souls, to bow intelligence and will before God, and through 
them the lower powers ; and it is precisely for the better embracing of 
the whole that love gathers itself to the centre, to the vital core: " O 
my God, I have desired it, and thy law in the midst of my heart " 
(Ps. xxxix. 9). 

" With the whole soul." Without laying too great stress on such 
an interpretation or claiming for it an exclusive value, we might perhaps 
consider " soul " here as the principle of life and continued life; for when 
the soul departs life ceases. So that to love God with one s whole soul 
would suggest that law of continuity in our adhesion to Him which 
should rule all our supernatural activity. This continuity has its 

What are the Instruments of Good Works 65 

degrees. One meets with extraordinary graces, with graces of intel 
lectual recollection in God, and of infused contemplation; but these are 
granted most often to those who use ordinary grace well. It is the 
normal thing that our thoughts should be turned with some assiduity 
towards Him to whom we have vowed to belong. Not of course that 
we could make an act of love each moment; but we can live habitually 
under the influence of charity. God is simple, and can permeate our 
whole life like a subtle odour. The best intellectual work is that 
which is done in His presence. With a little practice this contact 
with God becomes a habit. " Where the treasure is, there is the 
heart "; and our heart returns to Him expressly so soon as some alien 
interest no longer draws it away. Life is always a process of adaptation 
to environment: the supernatural life develops in the atmosphere of 
charity, of peaceful and continuous attention to Our Lord. 

We must love " with all our strength " that is, with all our powers, 
in such sort that they are employed without reservation for the advantage 
of love and of God. This is indeed the very condition of love; for all 
real loving must be absolute and without limits; so soon as one loves, 
deliberation ceases, one gives oneself entirely, and, if need be, attempts 
the impossible. Charity excepts nothing. It would possess all our 
time, direct all our steps, regulate all our affections. And when we have 
exhausted the long series of sacrifices, when we have bravely broken 
one after another of the idols that encumbered our souls, there remains 
generally one last idol, not the grossest, nor perhaps the best loved, an 
idol that is sometimes quite petty and ridiculous, but the last; and 
therein that self, which has been dislodged from every other stronghold, 
ensconces itself entire. If we do not wish to remain for ever stationary, 
we must arm ourselves with much resolve and delicacy of conscience, 
and cut the fastenings. 

2. Deinde proximum tamquam 2. Then, one s neighbour as one- 
seipsum (Mark xii. 31). self. 

With charity towards God goes charity towards one s neighbour: 
" On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the 
prophets " (Matt. xxii. 40). So we may pause also at this precept of 
fraternal charity; it is a precept of continual application; half of the 
instruments of good works express different aspects of it, and are but its 
particular manifestations. 

The object of this charity is our neighbour that is, our brother, 
whoever he may be; and, according to Our Lord s definition, this means 
any man to whom we can do good, though he be a Samaritan. If we 
excommunicate our brethren, if we have someone or other whom we 
refuse to see, in whose presence we adopt an attitude of sulky and ill- 
tempered neutrality, or even of violent hostility, then we are renegades 
and heretics in charity. It is ourselves that we excommunicate. If 
you cherish enmity against one of your brethren, charity is no more in 
you, and what causes you to keep on good terms with the rest is self-love, 


66 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

natural attraction, human sympathy, sometimes even a lower feeling 
which may be purely animal. Why do Communions sometimes produce 
so little fruit ? Because we put an obstacle in the way; and ordinarily 
this is the obstacle. Whence come some monastic apostasies ? From 
the contempt of charity. It is certain that, among religious, faults 
against charity, whether by aversion or detraction, are those wherein 
grave matter is most easily met. 

God is the motive of our charity. We love because God loves 
that we should love. We love because our neighbour belongs to God, 
and the love which we have for God naturally spreads to all that is 
connected with Him. We love because God loves, and we abase our 
personal repugnance before the sovereign judgement of God. We love 
because there is something of God in our neighbour: just as the Holy 
Eucharist is an extension of the Incarnation, so our neighbour is an 
extension of the Eucharist; God is jealous and would have us meet 
naught but Himself in all the avenues of our life. Our Lord regards 
Himself as the one really benefited by our charity: " As long as you did 
it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me " (Matt. xxv. 40). 
For in truth the act of charity which embraces God, ourselves, and our 
neighbour, is but one : we love God for Himself, ourselves for His sake, 
our neighbour because he is His and in Him. 

And, lest we should sometimes be undecided as to the range of 
our charity, we have been furnished with a ready standard viz., the 
supernatural love which we have for ourselves : tanquam sei-psum. What 
ever good we desire for ourselves and labour to procure for ourselves, 
this we should contrive for our neighbour by our desires, prayers, and 
efforts. Whenever you deal with one of your brethren, as the ninth 
instrument tells us, and then above all when you ask some service of 
him, or exercise when required the duty of correction, make use of 
a loving self-extension : to use a commonplace but accurate expression, 
" put yourself in his place." 

St. John continually speaks of charity. But, in the fourth chapter 
of his first Epistle, he expounds doctrinally what place it holds in the 
economy of the supernatural life. God, says he, is charity: He has 
proved it by the Incarnation and the Redemption; those who know Him 
truly, know Him only as such. And those who are really born of Him, 
who are His legitimate sons, cannot but have His character and cannot 
but be charity. Charity is an essence, a nature, a character. In this 
respect it is a universal law that those who are born of God cannot but 
love; and this affection must be spontaneously directed to the two 
objects of the divine affection, God and our neighbour. But our share 
in the divine life remains, like God Himself, a thing hidden from our 
sight. The proof that we are born of God can only be supplied there 
where the term of our charity is visible; our neighbour alone gives us 
the opportunity of showing that we love God, and are of His stock. 
When our charity is not exercised towards our neighbour, it is legitimate 
to conclude that it is non-existent; "For he that Joveth not his 

What are the Instruments of Good Works 67 

brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God whom he seeth not ?" 
(i John iv. 20.) St. John s profound theology is only the development 
of the words of Our Lord: " By this shall all men know that you are my 
disciples, if you have love one for another " (John xiii. 35). 

3. Deinde non occidere (Exod. xx. 3. Then not to kill. 
13-17; Matt. xix. 18; Rom. xiii. 9). 

4. Non adulterari (ibid.). 4. Not to commit adultery. 

5. Non facere furtum (ibid.). 5. Not to steal. 

6. Non concupiscere (ibid.). 6. Not to covet. 

7. Non falsum testimonium dicere 7. Not to bear false witness. 

8. Honorare omnes homines (i Pet. 8. To honour all men. 
ii. 17). 

9. Et quod sibi quis fieri non vult, 9. Not to do to another what one 
alii non faciat. would not have done to oneself. 

In the instruments from the third to the seventh we have a negative 
analysis of the precept of charity. To love one s neighbour is to respect 
him in his person, in his life, in his consort, in his property; the very 
desire to hurt him is forbidden, and it is still less lawful to set any 
social influence in motion against him by means of false witness. We 
might ask how such warnings as these concern religious. But we must 
remember that St. Benedict is simply enumerating the elementary 
points of Christian morality, that a monk is never dispensed from 
attention to them, that even in a monastery these odious vices may be 
met with on a smaller scale, and that, after all, monastic history records 
some crimes like that of which our Holy Father himself was nearly the 
victim at Vicovaro. 

The eight and ninth instruments give us the positive analysis of the 
precept. But while the Mosaic Law and the Gospel, from which the 
five preceding instruments are taken, added the counsel of honouring 
father and mother, St. Benedict, addressing men separated from their 
parents, takes from St. Peter the most general rule of honouring all 
men. Then he reminds us what should be the measure of our charity, 
in that " Golden Rule," which he cites anew in Chapters LXI. and 
LXX., and always in its negative form. We find it expressed positively 
in St. Matthew (vii. 12) and in St. Luke (vi. 31); but it is given in the 
negative form in the Book of Tobias (iv. 16), in certain ancient manu 
scripts of the Acts (xv. 20 and 29), in the Teaching of the Apostles, and in 
many of the Fathers of the Church. It would seem that St. Benedict 
quotes it from the Acts or the Fathers rather than from Tobias that 
is, if it be not simply a proverb, engraved in the memory of all and in 
current use. 1 

10. Abnegare semetipsum sibi, ut se- 10. To deny oneself, in order to 
quatur Christum (Matt, ivi, 24, xix. 16). follow Christ. 

11. Corpus castigare (i Cor. ix. 27). II. To chastise the body. 

1 See D. BUTLER S article in the Journal of Theological Studies, January, 1910. 

68 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

12. Delicias non amplecti. 1 12. Not to seek after delicate living. 

13. Jejunmm amare. 13. To love fasting. 

After having spoken of charity towards God, and charity towards 
our neighbour, St. Benedict was free to say something on self-love. 
In the state of original justice man leant on God in a conscious and 
deliberate manner; a man s dignity and power consisted then in return 
ing to God the whole of the divine likeness that was his being. When 
he separated himself from God in the vain hope of getting nearer to 
Him, and becoming His equal, man fell back first on himself and then 
soon below himself, even to the likeness of the brute. This is the 
teaching of St. Augustine. 2 We were profoundly affected in that first 
of ties, in that initial love which controls the whole life. Henceforth 
the worship of self prevails, self-love in all its forms, whether the worship 
of the body in luxury, gluttony, and vanity, or the worship of thought 
and will. And whatever is loved, whether person or thing, is loved 
only for self. Self-love is the one universal trace of the Fall; it is the 
one antagonist of our charity and our salvation. 

Now we understand why Our Lord asks those who would return 
to Him to renounce external and personal things, to leave the created, 
and, according to the phrase of the Gospel as St. Benedict read it, 3 to 
deny oneself to oneself. This is the general principle, and the instru 
ments which follow mark three special applications of it. They combat 
that animality which is at the bottom of all self-love. We must chastise 
the body and compel it to be no more than a docile servant; we must 
not greedily seek comfort and the sweets of a sensual life; we must have 
a practical love for fasting, that standard Christian mortification. 

14. Pauperes recreare (Isa. Iviii. 7; 14. To relieve the poor. 
Matt. xxv. 35-36).* 

15. Nudum vestire (ibid.). 5 15. To clothe the naked. 

1 We must not try to find a scriptural source at all costs; yet we shall generally 
conform to the custom of giving references to the Bible. 

2 ... Incipiens a perverso appetitu similitudinis Dei, pervenit ad similitudinem 
pecorum. Inde est quod nudati stola prima, pelliceas tunicas mortalitate meruerunt. 
Honor enim hominis verus est imago et similitude Dei, quce non custoditur nisi ad ijpsum 
a quo imprimitur. Tanto magis itaque inharetur Deo, quanta minus diligitur proprium. 
Cupiditate vero experiendce potestatis sua, quodam nutu suo ad se ipsum tanquam ad 
medium proruit. Ita cum vult esse sicut ille sub nullo, et ab ipsa sui medietate pcenaliter 
ad ima propellitur, id est, ad ea quibus pecora latantur(De Trinitatc, 1. XII., c. xi. 3 P.L., 
XLIL, 1006-1007). 

3 The same is to be found in ST. AMBROSE, De Pcenit., 1. II., 96, 97. P.L., XVI. , 
520-521. Epist. II., 26. P.L., XVI., 886. St. Benedict had in mind a passage in 
the Historia monacborum of RUFINUS, c. xxxi. (ROSWEYD, p. 484): Docebat beatus Antonius 
quod si quis velit ad perfectionem velociter pervenire, non sibi ipse fieret magister, nee 
propriis -voluntatibus obediret, etiamsi rectum videatur esse quod vellet ; sed secundtim 
mandatum Salvatoris observandum esse, ut ante omnia unusquisque abneget semetipsum sibi 
et renuntiet propriis voluntatibus, quia et Salvator ipse dixit : Ego veni non ut faciam 
voluntatem meam sed ejus qui misit me. 

4 Recreare is not merely to give alms, but to give food to the poor, to refresh them, 
to "re-create" them. 

5 Instruments 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 41, occur in a sermon printed among the 
spuria of ST. AMBROSE (Sermo XXIV., 1 1. P.L., XVII. , 654). The beginning and some 
other parts of the sermon belong probably to ST. CJESARIUS, but the whole is a com 
pilation including later elements. 

What are the Instruments of Good Works 69 

1 6. Infirmum visitare (Eccli. vii. 16. To visit the sick. 
39; Matt. xxv. 35-6). 

17. Mortmain sepelire (Tob. i. 21; 17. To bury the dead, 
ii. 7-9). 

18. In tribulatione subvenire (Isa. i. 18. To help in affliction. 


19. Dolentem consolari (Eccli. vii. 19. To console the sorrowing. 

38; I Thess. v. 14). 

In proportion as we conquer our selfish appetites, we shall be able 
to provide for the divers necessities of our neighbours. If occasion for 
exercising the first two works of mercy scarcely comes to any but the 
Abbot and the cellarer, yet monks will sometimes have to visit the sick 
and bury the dead; and all can help the afflicted and console the 

20. A saeculi actibus se facere alie- 20. To keep aloof from worldly 
num. actions. 

21. Nihil amori Christi prseponere. 21. To prefer nothing to the love 

of Christ. 

Perhaps the juxtaposition of the twentieth instrument with those 
which immediately precede was suggested to St. Benedict by the text 
of St. James (i. 27) : Religion clean and undefiled before God and the 
Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation, 
and to keep oneself unspotted from this world." However this may be, 
it is certain that the twentieth and twenty-first instruments have a 
general reference, that they are closely connected and complete each 
other, and that their object is to orientate our life, by showing from what 
mark we should turn and to what direct our course. The Prologue 
set this choice before us, the world or Our Lord, as mutually exclusive 
alternatives; we cannot remain neutral, but must belong wholly to 
the one or wholly to the other. 

St. Benedict s language here is vigorous; he bids us keep aloof from 
worldly actions. By worldly actions is meant evil in all its forms: 
Corrumpere et corrumpi s&culum vocatur (To corrupt and be corrupted 
is called the fashion of the world). After our entering into Christ by 
baptism and by the monastic profession, we should hold ourselves as 
far aloof from the world as possible and have no connection with it. 
There shall no longer be more intercourse between us than there is 
between two corpses : " The world is crucified to me and I to the world " 
(Gal. vi. 14). Let us be on our guard against thinking that it may 
sometimes be proper to soften the differences, to lessen the distance 
which separates us. The Apostle warns us that we can only please 
God by preserving the integrity of our true life; "No man being a 
soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular businesses : that he may 
please him to whom he hath engaged himself" (2 Tim. ii. 4). The 
world itself is scandalized by our condescending to it, and the words 
of the Imitation are always fulfilled: "Sometimes we think to please 

jo Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

others by our company; whereas we begin rather to be displeasing to 
them by reason of the bad qualities they discover in us " (I. viii.). 

We are not, however, vowed to solitude; our separation from the 
world is only that we may draw near to God. No natural love for 
natural beauty shall prevail over the love which binds us to Christ. 
St. Benedict was fond of this sentence and repeats it in Chapter LXXII. 
Commentators give St. Matthew (x. 37-38) as the source of the passage, 
but it is more probably inspired by the Fathers. It is said in the 
Life of St. Antony : " His conversation, which was seasoned with wit, 
consoled the sad, instructed the ignorant, reconciled enemies: he 
persuaded all that nothing should be preferred to the love of Christ." 1 
And St. Cyprian had written before this: "To prefer nothing to 
Christ." 2 

22. Iram non perficere (Matt. v. 22. Not to gratify anger. 


23. Iracundiae tempus non reser- 23. Not to harbour a desire of 
vare. revenge. 

24. Dolum in corde non tenere 24. Not to foster guile in one s 
(Prov. xii. 20). 3 heart. 

25. Pacemfalsam non dare (Ps.xxvii. 25. Not to make a feigned peace. 


26. Caritatem non derelinquere 26. Not to forsake charity. 
(i Pet. iv. 8). 

27. Non jurare, ne forte perjuret 27. Not to swear, lest perchance 
(Matt. v. 33 J"<7). 4 one forswear oneself. 

28. Veritatem ex corde, et ore pro- 28. To utter truth from heart and 
ferre (Ps. xiv. 3). mouth. 

29. Malum pro malo non reddere 29. Not to render evil for evil. 
(I Pet. iii. 9). 

30. Injuriam non facere, sed factam 30. To do no wrong to anyone, 
patienter sufferre (i Cor. vi. 7). 5 yea, to bear patiently wrong done to 


1 Versio Evagrii, 14. P.G., XXVI., 865. 

2 Here is the whole passage of ST. CYPRIAN; St. Benedict seems to have known 
it well: Humilitas in conversatione, stabilitas in fide, verecundia in verbis, infactisjustitia, 
in operibus miser icordia, in moribus discipline, injuriam facere non nossc, et factam posse 
tolerare (the thirtieth instrument), cumfratribus pacem tenere ; Deum to to corde diligcre, 
amare in illo quod pater est, timere quod Deus est ; Christo omnino nihil prceponere, quia 
nee nobis quicquam ille prceposuit, caritati ejus inseparabiliter adhcerere (De Oratione 
Dominica, xv. P.L., IV., 529). 

8 Instruments 22-28 recall Prov. xii. 16-20. 

4 This maxim occurs several times in ST. AUGUSTINE, for instance Epist., CLVII., 40. 
P.L., XXXIII., 693. JOSEPHUS cites it (with a slight variation) as familiar to the 
Essenes: De Bella Jud., 1. II., c. viii. (al. vii.). It is interesting to note that a portion 
of the list of Essene virtues given by Josephus corresponds quite closely with the 
series of the instruments of good works from 13 to 28: sobriety, works of mercy, 
abstention from angry acts, true peace, fidelity to promises, abstention from oaths. 
We do not put forward Josephus as one of St. Benedict s sources, although he might 
very well have known the Jewish War by means of the Latin translation which was 
current in his time and which, according to CASSIODORUS (De Institut. div. litt., c. xvii. 
P.L., LXX., 1133), was attributed to St. Ambrose, or St. Jerome, or Rufinus. 

5 St. Benedict s words come rather from ST. CYPRIAN or the Rule of ST. MACARIUS 

What are the Instruments of Gooa Works 71 

31. Inimicos diligere (Matt. v. 44). 31. To love one s enemies. 

32. Maledicentes se non remale- 32. Not to render cursing for 
dicere, sed magis benedicere (i Pet. iii. cursing, but rather blessing. 


33. Persecutiones pro justitia sus- 33. To bear persecution for jus- 
tinere (Matt. v. 10). tice sake. 

The subject is still charity towards our neighbour, but charity 
exercised under difficult circumstances, when our neighbour is a trial 
to us or even becomes our enemy and persecutor. There are cases 
where simple interior benevolence will not do, where charity must be 
backed by courage and magnanimity. Our Lord sometimes requires 
heroism. Not only must we never abandon serenity of mind or seek 
revenge; every Christian must have in his heart this divine disposition 
of returning good for evil. For children of God, to suffer persecution 
for justice sake is the highest happiness. 

This group of counsels is interesting also for the fact that it adds 
the virtue of uprightness to that of charity. It is the glory of the 
monastic life to be founded in loyalty and absolute sincerity, to be 
delivered from all the diplomacy and shiftiness of the world. Happy 
those who have nothing to hide, who know nothing of tortuous or 
subterranean manreuvres, who live full in the day. Happy those who 
have brought all their being to a perfect simplicity, and who, before 
God and before men, are what they are, without duality, stiffness, or 
effort, but with flexibility and ease. 

34. Non esse superbum (Tit. i. 7). 34. Not to be proud. 

35. Non vinolentum (ibid.}. 35. Not given to wine. 

36. Non multum edacem (Eccli. 36. Not a glutton. 
xxxvii. 32). 

37. Non somnolentum (Prov. xx. 37. Not drowsy. 


38. Non pigrum (Rom. xii. ii; 38. Not slothful. 
Prov. xxiv. 30 sq}. 

39. Non murmurosum (Sap. i. n). 39. Not a murmurer. 

40. Non detractorem (ibid}. 40. Not a detractor. 

From the thirty-fourth to the sixty-third, the instruments seem 
designed to regulate morally, not our life in relation to others, but our 
separate personal life. First conies a series of negative counsels. The 
preceding ones had put us on our guard against the ways of the world 
which foment discord among men; these warn the monk to abstain 
from other " worldly actions " which are incompatible with Christian 
dignity. Anger and all its train of vices having been banished already, 
it remained to denounce pride, gluttony, and sloth; lust is dealt with in 
the fifty-ninth and sixty-third instruments, and envy in the sixty-fifth. 
St. Benedict singles out for special condemnation the spirit of mur 
muring, a spirit habitual with the idle and lazy; the cantankerous, 
critical, and malicious spirit. 

J2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

41. Spem suam Deo committere 41. To put one s hope in God. 
(Ps. Ixxii. 28). 

42. Bonum aliquod in se cum 42. To attribute any good that 
viderit, Deo applicet, non sibi. one sees in oneself to God and not 

to oneself. 

43. Malum vero semper a se factum 43. But to recognize and always 
sciat, et sibi reputet. impute to oneself the evil that one 


These counsels are designed to fortify us against the secret pride 
that rises in us when we have done good or avoided evil. We must 
know to whom we should ultimately attribute the glory of our virtues and 
the shame of our faults. It is too common a tendency to assume respon 
sibility for the good alone and to give the glory of it to oneself; more 
over, at an epoch which lay close to Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism, 
it was not superfluous briefly to recall the doctrines of grace and free 
will; St. Benedict has done this already in the Prologue. In this place 
he proclaims that all man s strength and trust are in God and not in 
himself: " But it is good for me to cling to my God, to put my hope 
in the Lord God " (Ps. Ixxii. 28); fallen man must claim nothing as his 
own but evil and sin. 1 

44. Diem judicii timere (Luc. xii.). 44. To fear the Day of Judgement. 

45. Gehennam expavescere (ibid.). 45. To be in dread of hell. 

46. Vitam aeternam omni concupis- 46. To desire with all spiritual 
centia spiritual! desiderare (Phil. i. 23; longing everlasting life. 

Ps. Ixxxiii.). 

47. Mortem quotidie ante oculos 47. To keep death daily before 
suspectam habere. 2 one s eyes. 2 

If it be wise to distinguish the sources from which our actions come, 
it is indispensable also to recognize whither they lead us. In these four 
counsels our Holy Father warns us to think of our last end: of death, 
judgement, hell, and heaven. The whole of life takes a different aspect 
according as we regard it as a walk or a journey. In the first case our 

1 Our Holy Father is in agreement with ST. AUGUSTINE: Non prasumat de se, sentiat 
se bominem, et respiciat dictum propheticum : Maledictus ontnis qui spem suam ponit in 
homing. Subducat se sibi, sed non deorsum versus. Subducat se sibi, ut heereat Deo. 
Quidquid boni habet, illi tribuat a quo factus est ; quidquid mali habet, ipse sibi fecit. 
Deus quod in illo malum est, non fecit (Serm. XCVI., 2. P.L., XXXVIII., 386). A 
similar formula occurs in the Neo-Platonic philosopher PORPHYRY: ndvTwv &v 
Trpa.TTOiJ.fv aya$a)i> TUV 6fov CUTIOV r^yw^ifBa TUV 5e KO.KO>V atnot fjfjLfls fd^ifv ol 
\6p.fvoi (Epist. ad Marcellam, xii.). We may also compare with St. Benedict s teaching 
that of the Council of Orange in 529: Nemo habet de suo nisi mendacium et peccatum. Si 
quid autem habet homo veritatis atque justitice, ab illo fonte est, quern debemus sitire in 
hac eremo, ut ex eo quasi guttis quibusdam irrorati, non deficiamus in via (Can. xxii., MANSI, 
t. VIII., col. 716). [The words of PORPHYRY echo a famous passage in PLATO S Re 

2 Being recommended by Holy Scripture (Ecclus. vii. 40; Matt. xxiv. 42 ft".), this 
practice was familiar to the ancient monks: Cogita apud temetipsum et did to : utique non 
manebo in hoc mundo, nisi prtesenti hac die, et non peccabis Deo. . . . Ponatque sibi 
mortem ante oculos (Reg. S. ANTONII, xii., xlv.). Oportet monachum ut semper lugeat, 
semper suorum sit memor peccatorum et omni bora ponat sibi mortem ante oculos suos (Verba 
Seniorum : Vita Patrum, III., 196. ROSWEYD, p. 529). 

What are the Instruments of Good Works 73 

movements are free, and we may choose our own pace. But if it be a 
journey with a fixed end, and if the conditions of this journey be such 
that it must end soon, perhaps in an unexpected fashion, and that it 
would be simply terrible not to reach our goal, would it not be folly 
to travel at a venture ? We have no right to forget the judgement of 
God which awaits us. We have no right to put aside the terrors of hell, 
as though hell did not concern us. There are not two Christianities. 
And since Satan could fall from the steps of God s throne to the depths 
of the abyss, there is no security for us but in the continual consideration 
of our destiny. We are moving towards it. Our Lord calls Himself 
" He that cometh," 6 ep^ofjuevo^. And those whose souls are turned to 
Him in faith and hope and charity may make their own the words of 
the Spirit and the Bride: " Come, Lord Jesus." 

For there is a something better still than the fear of God s judgement, 
and it is the desire of eternity, the burning thirst to see Our Lord and 
to be with Him for ever. St. Benedict indicates the true character of 
this desire in a word: it should be supernatural. With the young some 
times, just after conversion and in the exaltation of their first fervour, 
the longing for eternity is but an emotional yearning, a curiosity legiti 
mate in itself, yet mixed with imperfection. Some have this desire 
through a delicacy of conscience which shows them in how many ways 
they may offend God every day. With other souls it springs from 
weariness and cowardice, from the wish to be done with the toils of 
the spiritual life. But the desire of heaven is of purest metal when it 
awakes towards the end of our days, for we are never more attached to 
the charms of the present life than when it is passing from us ; and few 
are they who, when the thread of their life is worn thin, ask God to 
come and sever it forthwith. 

We must think upon death. Death has no terrors for a monk. 
Paganism, our imagination, and our feelings have taught us to envelop 
this last moment in dread. The idea, or rather the imagination, of 
death always suggests to us farewell scenes, tears, mournful chants, 
the horrors of corpses and tombs; our childish eyes pictured death as a 
skeleton holding a huge scythe, or under the symbol of a skull and cross- 
bones. Certainly death is the proof of sin and its punishment. But 
Our Lord Himself tasted this bitter cup, and so delivered us from 
the terror which death inspired in the ancients. " Therefore because 
the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself in like 
manner hath been partaker of the same: that, through death, he might 
destroy him who had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil: 
and might deliver them who through the fear of death were all their 
lifetime subject to servitude" (Heb. ii. 14-15). And if we regard 
death as the final meeting with Him whom we have sought and loved 
so long in faith, it is no longer possible to feel an indefinable superstitious 
fear at its approach. It is the true communion, and solemn profession, 
the veritable beginning of all things. " Yes," you will say, " but what 
about my failings ?" You must labour to overcome them, and to ex- 

74 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

piate them. And it is right that we should love all that comes from 
God; we must love His justice, and we must love purgatory. From 
now on we must accept the reprisals which He has to take on us and 
abandon ourselves blindly to His infinite mercy. Do we not go towards 
it with souls bathed in the Blood of Our Saviour and all penetrated 
with His beauty ? Will not God refuse to see in us aught but His 
own Son ? 

Very easy too is it to meditate on death in general or on the death 
of another, and such meditations are not without their usefulness. But 
our own death, the death of this individual concrete being that 
above all is good for us to consider, if not for the purpose of imagining 
its form, at least to accept in advance all its bitterness, all its conditions, 
all its particular circumstances. " To keep death daily before one s 
eyes." There is an act of perfect charity embodied in this rehearsal 
of death. And, as experience shows well, we cannot extemporize our 
dying; when death has not been prepared and practised, the piece is a 
failure. Not that we must "make-up" beforehand, practise poses, 
and prepare fine speeches and pathetic farewells: for death should be 
natural; but precisely that it may be natural, and since it only happens 
once " it is appointed unto men once to die " let us fix ourselves 
in the dispositions which may make it " precious in the sight of God." 
St. Benedict would like this thought and this effort to be a daily practice : 
so that we may accustom ourselves to it the more, and prevent all 
surprise, and perhaps also that we may repress in ourselves a certain 
excessive enjoyment of life. 

48. Actus vitae suae omni hora 48. To keep guard at all times over 
custodire (Deut. iv. 9). the actions of one s life. 

49. In omni loco Deum se respicere, 49. To know for certain that God 
pro certo scire (Prov. v. 21). sees one everywhere. 

We know our goal. St. Benedict now indicates some practices which 
help us to reach it. The constant thought of death makes us use life 
well. There is a close and necessary relation between what we are 
and what we shall be, for with the works of the present life do we 
construct our eternity. " To keep guard at all times over the actions 
of one s life " is to live thoughtfully, to be a person and not a puppet, 
a being that rules itself and not an animal deprived of reason; it is to 
weigh one s actions and make them conform to law, to have empty and 
void of fruit not even one of those days which Our Lord has given us for 
His service: " Defraud not thyself of the good day: and let not the part 
of a good day overpass thee " (Ecclus. xiv. 14; compare the prayers 
of Prime: Domine Deus . . . and Dirigere . . .). It is to set ourselves 
to accomplish our supernatural education by a resolute acceptance 
of all that God asks of us. The two first educations, the education of 
the family and the education of the school, even though without defects, 
even though they had always helped and never thwarted each other, 
would still not be enough to shape the whole man. For man has not 
only to ratify this work, he has to pursue it without ceasing. Grace 

What are the Instruments of Good Works 75 

is a principle of action, and it is given us abundantly only that our 
activity may be raised higher from day to day and secured from all 
the counter-attacks of self-love. 

" To know for certain that God sees one everywhere." This advice 
must be very important since St. Benedict is constantly repeating it. 
He gives it in the Prologue, in the first and last degrees of humility, in 
the chapter " Of the discipline of saying the Divine Office." We find 
it in the Liturgy of the Church: 

Speculator adstat desuper, 
Qui nos diebus omnibus, 
Actusque nostros prospicit 
A luce prima in vesperum. 1 

The warning is so natural that it may be addressed to all: to the 
Christian as to the monk, to the child as to the mature man: " God sees 
you." It would seem that those prodigies of sanctity, the Patriarchs, 
walked towards perfection with no other principle. Holy Scripture 
considers that all has been said about their greatness when it is described 
in these few words : " He walked with God," " He walked before God " ; 
and God gives Abraham no other rule but this: " Walk before me and 
be perfect." 

The precept has a sovereign efficacy. The imperative of the moral 
law is only categorical when we see in it something more than an 
aesthetic rule, when we realize that God is not only the author of this 
law, but also its surety and its guardian. Our moral life requires a 
witness, a function assigned to friendship by pagans and lay directors 
of conscience. Making his own a maxim of Epicurus and Plato, 
Seneca wrote thus in his eleventh letter to Lucilius : " We must choose 
some good man and keep him ever before our eyes, so that we may 
live as though he were looking on and do all as though he saw us. ... 
Many sins are prevented if there be a witness by the sinner." For us 
this is no fiction of the imagination, but a living reality; nor have we 
a mere witness, but a Being who is at once spectator and actor, no 
man but God. And we Christians say: Nemo peccat videns Deum, " No 
one seeing God sins." The impeccability of the elect is due to their 
being for ever rooted in good by the uninterrupted contemplation of 
beauty. Now we by faith may share in this privilege of vision, and the 
" exercise of the presence of God " may become something assiduous 
and constant, like our consciousness of ourselves. 

50. Cogitationes malas cordi suo 50. To dash down at the feet of 
advenientes mox ad Christum allidere. Christ one s evil thoughts, the instant 

that they come into the heart. 

51. Et seniori spiritual! patefacere. 51. And to lay them open to one s 

spiritual father. 
1 Feria V., ad Laudes. 

The Watcher ever from on high 
Marks our days as they go by, 
And every act discerneth done 
From early dawn to setting sun. 

j6 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

52. Os suum a malo, vel pravo 52. To keep one s mouth from evil 
eloquio custodire (Ps. xxxiii. 14). 1 and wicked words. 

53. Multum loqui non amare (Prov. 53. Not to love much speaking. 
x. 19). 

54. Verba vana aut risui apta non 54. Not to speak vain words or 
loqui (Matt. xii. 36; 2 Tim. ii. 1 6). such as move to laughter. 

55. Risum multum aut excussum 55. Not to love much or excessive 
non amare (Eccli. xxi. 23). laughter. 

The forty-eighth and forty-ninth instruments were of a general 
character, inviting us to keep watch over our actions and giving us the 
motive for this watchfulness namely, the watchfulness of God. From 
this point the Holy Rule descends to detail. In the first place our 
acts are interior ones, thoughts and tendencies. We observed in the 
Prologue, in dealing with a text of similar import to the fiftieth instru 
ment, that we should exercise a rigorous control over the feelings and 
thoughts which present themselves to us. When recognized as evil 
or dangerous, they must be dashed at once on the Rock, which is Christ. 
There is great security in thus seizing every irregular motion in its 
beginnings, while it has not yet got all its strength and while our strength 
remains intact; for it is easier to extinguish a spark than a fire. And the 
author of the Imitation (I. xiii.) recalls in this connection the verses of 

Ovid: -!. j- - 

rnncipns obsta; sero medicma paratur, 

Cum mala per longas invaluere moras. 2 

Another condition of security, equally absolute, is to drag Cacus 
from his cave, and to go simply and open one s soul, not only to one s 
confessor, but to one s Abbot, or Master of Novices, or to the superior 
against whom one is tempted. Our Holy Father makes of this course 
of action a special degree of humility, 3 and we may reserve our com 
mentary for the seventh chapter. 

But our actions are not only thoughts and secret movements of the 
soul; there are also the words and external signs which manifest them. 
St. Benedict counsels us to guard them equally and keep watch over them. 
Conversation should be monastic; we should banish from it all that 
would be out of place or of doubtful character. And since there is 
danger, when one speaks much, of saying many things that had far better 
not be said, and danger always of dissipation, we should agree to avoid 
wordiness. Our Holy Father adds: " Not to speak vain words or such 
as move to laughter." He does not mean to proscribe spiritual joy, 

1 D. BUTLER indicates as sources: Ingenio malo pravoque (SALLUST., CatiL, v.). Malo 
pravoque consilio (LUCIFER CALIG., Mor. essepro DeiJiL, vi. P.L., XIII., 1019). 
* Resist beginnings; all too late the cure 
When ills have gathered strength by long delay. 

3 CASSIAN had already written these words of gold: Nullas penitus cogitationes 
prurientes in corde perniciosa confusione celare, sed confestim ut exortes fuerint eas suo 
patefacere seniori, nee super earum judicio quicquam sua discretions committere^ sed Mud 
credere tnalum esse vel bonum, quod discusserit ac pronuntiaverit senioris examen. . . . 
Generale et evidens indicium diabolicce cogitationis ?.sse pronvntiant^ si earn seniori confun- 
damur aperire (Inst., IV., ix.). 

What are the Instruments of Good Works 77 

nor that happiness which is sometimes an indication and an instrument 
of perfection, 1 but only gross gaiety, the unbridled noisy spirit, coarse 
and violent laughter. St. Benedict formulates the same restriction 
later on at greater length. 

56. Lectiones sanctas libenter au- 56. To listen willingly to holy 
dire. reading. 

57. Orationi frequenter incumbere 57. To apply oneself frequently to 
(Luc. xviii. i ; Col. iv. 2). prayer. 

58. Mala sua praeterita cum lacri- 58. Daily to confess in prayer one s 
mis vel gemitu quotidie in oratione Deo past sins with tears and sighs to God, 
confiteri, et de ipsis malis de cetero and to amend them for the time to 
emendare (Ps. vi. 7). come. 

59. Desideria carnis non perficere. 59. Not to fulfil the desires of the 
Voluntatem propriam odire (Gal. v. 16; flesh: to hate one s own will. 

Eccli. xviii. 30). 

60. Praeceptis Abbatis in omnibus 60. To obey in all things the com- 
obedire, etiam si ipse aliter (quod absit) mands of the Abbot, even though he 
agat, memor illius Dominici praecepti : himself (which God forbid) should act 
Qute dicunt, facite, qua autem faciunt otherwise: being mindful of that pre- 
facere nolite (Matt, xxiii. 3). cept of the Lord: " What they say, do 

ye; but what they do, do ye not." 

61. Non velle dici sanctum, ante- 61. Not to wish to be called holy 
quam sit, sed prius esse, quo verius before one is so; but first to be holy, 
dicatur. that one may be truly so called. 

62. Praecepta Dei factis quotidie 62. Daily to fulfil by one s deeds 
adimplere (Eccli. vi. 37). the commandments of God. 

The first two instruments mark the practical means which most 
effectively repress every evil habit and ensure to the monastic life its 
character of seriousness. Instead of letting himself slip into dissipation 
or gossip, a monk devotes himself to the study of spiritual things and 
to prayer. He is recommended to love holy reading and to have a 
taste for God s word: " Blessed are they that hear the word of God 
and keep it " (Luke xi. 28). It is by hearing that faith comes to us: 
"faith is from hearing" (Rom. x. 17); and it may be that the Rule 
speaks designedly of hearing and not of reading. Moreover, thanks 
to the word audire (hear) the fifty-sixth instrument was put within 
reach of all, including monks who could not read. Prayer is easy for 
souls who live in constant communion with the teaching of Scripture 
and the saints. We may believe that our Holy Father remembered 
what Sulpicius Severus wrote of St. Martin: " He never let any hour 
or moment pass by, but he applied himself to prayer or reading; though 
even while reading, or whatever else he was doing, he never relaxed 
his mind from prayer." 2 

To meditation and prayer the monk shall join the spirit of compunc 
tion. His intimacy with God does not dispense him from remembering 
ever that he is a sinner. So he shall replace worldly joy by tears and 

1 Cf. S. BASIL., Reg.fus., xvii. 

2 Vita B. Martini, xxvi. P.L., XX., 175-176. 

78 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

heartfelt lamentation; and, in proportion as this compunction is sincere, 
he shall watch that he commits his former faults no more, and shall 
undertake a serious reform of his life. 1 

Our watchfulness should be directed to the two sources of evil 
which are in us: the spirit and the flesh; for the whole man suffers if 
either is affected. The passions of the flesh are far from being the more 
formidable; for those of the spirit are more treacherous and merit well 
the hatred which St. Benedict requires. " Go not after thy desires 
and turn away from thine own will," says Ecclesiasticus. 

To help us to triumph over all the forms of self-love, Our Lord has 
substituted for our wills His Divine Will, manifesting itself by the 
medium of a created authority. So our Holy Father traces for us a 
whole scheme of perfection and security when he writes : " To obey 
in all things the commands of the Abbot, even though he himself (which 
God forbid) should act otherwise : being mindful of that precept of the 
Lord: * What they say, do ye; but what they do, do ye not. 

St. Benedict next warns us wittily against a rather subtle temptation 
which may arise in religious souls. It is not wise to believe too soon that 
one has reached the " transforming union." When a monk admires 
himself and aims at being canonized by his brethren, it is a certain sign 
that he is still far from sanctity. The author of the letter ad Celantiam 
matronam, which appears among the letters of St. Jerome, gives the 
same warning to his correspondent: "Beware lest beginning to fast 
or abstain you think yourself already a saint." 2 Let us first become 
saints, if we would like to be justly called such; and with this purpose 
let us strive each day to establish absolute agreement between our 
actions and the commandments of God. 

63. Castitatem amare (Judith xv. 63. To love chastity. 

64. Nullum odire (Lev. xix. 17; 64. To hate no man. 
Matt. v. 43 /.). 

65. Zelum et invidiam non habere 65. Not to be jealous, nor to give 
(Jac. iii. 14; Gal. v. 19 sq.). way to envy. 

66. Contentionem non amare 66. Not to love strife. 
(2 Tim. ii. 14). 

^67. Elationem fugere. 67. To fly from vainglory. 

68. Seniores venerari (Lev. xix. 32). 68. To reverence seniors. 

69. Juniores diligere (i Tim. v. i). 3 68. To love juniors. 

70. In Christi amore pro inimicis 70. To pray for one s enemies in 
orare (Matt. v. 44). the love of Christ. 

71. Cum discordantibus ante solis 71. To make peace with an adver- 
occasum in pacem redire (Eph. iv. 26). sary before the setting of the sun. 

1 The same advice occurs in the Rule ascribed to ST. ANTONY (xxv., xxx., xliv.). 

2 Epist. CXLVIII., 22. P.L., XXII., 1214. 

3 WEYMAN has noted that instruments 68 and 69 are found in the Florilegium of 
the Greek compiler JOHN OF STOBI or STOB/EUS (III., ricpi (ppovr/o-eeoy, 80. Soxrtadov rcov 
firrii <ro<pcioj/ viroOf)Kai) Tlpfcrfivrepov aidov vecorfpov 5iSao"K6. Weyman proposes to 
read in St. Benedict dirigere instead of diligere; but Traube and Butler maintain the 
reading. Stobaeus, a pagan, was probably contemporaneous with St. Benedict (about 550). 
As to SOSIADES, who collected the maxims of the Sages, this is all that is known of him. 

What are the Instruments of Good Works 79 

" To love chastity." This is the sole passage of the Rule where 
formal mention is made of chastity; doubtless because this virtue is so 
involved in the concept of the religious life that it was unnecessary to 
insist on it. Ancient monastic legislators are, however, more explicit, 
and while St. Benedict in the course of his Rule limits himself to putting 
us on our guard against bad thoughts and the desires of the flesh, his 
predecessors did not disdain to enter into detail concerning the occasions 
which must be avoided and the vices which must be punished. 1 St. 
Benedict simply says " to love chastity," as he said above " to love 
fasting." But while we are asked to love fasting only with a love of 
appreciation and as a useful tool, we must love chastity for itself and 
with a true affection. For priest and for monk chastity is a part of 
chanty, its fine flower and perfection. With it the holocaust is complete 
and our body contributes its share to the work of the adoration of God 
and union with Him. " I beseech you . . . that you present your 
bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God " (Rom. xii. i). And 
St. Paul recommends the state of chastity because it is beautiful and 
good, and because it secures leisure for the holding of a continuous 
converse with the Divine Purity, " for that which is seemly and which 
may give you power to attend upon the Lord without impediment " 
(i Cor. vii. 35). In the enumeration of the fruits of the Spirit, where 
charity is first, chastity ends the list and seems to sum all up in itself: 
" Charity, joy, peace . . . continency, chastity " (Gal. v. 22-23). 
The exercise of charity, says St. Thomas, is most spontaneous, because, 
more than any other habit, charity has a powerful inclination towards 
its act; and the rest of the virtues borrow their facility from it. The 
preservation of chastity becomes an easy and delightful task so soon as it 
is subsumed into charity. And does it always require an heroic struggle 
to remain pure when one is far from the world, in touch with God, using 
prayer and study, and employing a detailed prudence, proportionate 
to the value of that which we wish to safeguard ? 

The instruments from the sixty-fourth to the seventy-first revert 
to the subject of fraternal charity. We have no right to indulge in 
estrangement or aversion from anyone whatsoever. Animosity, 
envy, and jealousy are proscribed. Even argument is rarely opportune: 
" Not to love strife. To fly from vainglory." In dispute or argument 
of a somewhat lively character, there constantly emerges some inordinate 
esteem of our own ideas and a tendency towards display. The 
discussion is often interminable and pure loss, since it is much less a 
question of principles than of mere accidentals. 

Fraternal charity is wise even in the nuances of life. In every com 
munity old and young are side by side. The first have the experience 
of age, the second have vigour and spirit; the former love calm, the 
latter are restless ; and it is not a very rare thing to find them forming 
two groups with opposing tendencies. Our Holy Father s design is 
to prevent rivalry and petty troubles, to unite the two ages in mutual 
1 Cj. MARTENI, in b. loc. 

80 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

affection, to gather all souls together round the Abbot, and so by him 
close to God. So there will be respect and reverence for the old, and 
these in their turn will show affection and condescension towards the 
young. The same formula is repeated in Chapter LXIII. 1 

If, despite all the efforts of our charity, there be brethren who make 
themselves our enemies, there remains to us the last resource of praying 
for them, in union with Christ who taught this counsel of evangelical 
perfection and Himself practised it on the cross. We must also know 
how to effect a reconciliation with those who may have had some dis 
agreement with us. Virtual reconciliation that is, a reconciliation 
which is not formal but is implied in our attitude is often sufficient 
and is the best. We should make peace quickly, or at least " before the 
setting of the sun," which should be the limit. It were even better to 
make Our Lord wait than to postpone reconciliation: "Go first and 
be reconciled with thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift " 
(Matt. v. 24). 

72. Et de Dei misericordia nun- 72. And never to despair of God s 
quam desperare. mercy. 

This last recommendation has in the Christian life almost the 
value of the first, of which it seems an echo: for to be confident always 
of God s love no matter what may happen is to love Him truly: " I 
have hoped in the mercy of God for ever, yea for ever and ever " (Ps. li. 
10). In making this instrument the last of the whole series our Holy 
Father seems to say to us : " Even though you should have neglected the 
others, grasp your soul again and set yourself face to face with duty." 
Every fault and every error of detail should stir in us a twofold move 
ment, of regret and of confidence. The first is indispensable, but it 
should be expeditious and should never be alone. Perhaps the most 
formidable thing in our daily failings is not the fault itself, but the 
weariness, heaviness, discouragement, and disillusionment that it leaves 
after it. We promised perfect fidelity, and lo, how we have failed of 
its perfection ! The spell is broken, done with, shattered, like the 
glass-drop that goes to dust when we break its point. And till next 
confession, or till some strong movement of grace, the soul will remain 
in the gloomy contemplation of its weakness. 

True, it is a painful thing to be always running on the same rock, 
or always cleaning up the same dirt; it would be far sweeter to unite 
oneself to Our Lord for ever by a single act, like the angels. However, 
there is a good side even to these perpetual jerks and oscillations. For 
when all is said, to return to God when one has been misled, to make it up 
with Him, to put our whole soul back at His feet, this is an act of perfect 
charity. It is not impossible that these falls have contributed much to 

1 The Rule of SS. PAUL and STEPHEN says in gracious terms: Senior -es junioribus 
affectum paternum impendant et cum imperandi necessariumfuerit^ non tumenti animositate 
et clamosis vocibus, sed fiducialiter, tranquilla simplicitate et auctoritate bonce vita ad 
peragendam communem utilitatem qucefuerint opportuna injungant (c. ii.). 

What are the Instruments of Good Works 8 I 

our progress. In any case they invite us to greater watchfulness and 
teach us the little or nothing that we are. Whatever our weakness may 
have been God has not changed, His arms are always open. Let us 
remember the father of the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan, and 
other gospel parables, in which is enshrined for ever the form of divine 

Ecce haec sunt instrumenta artis Behold, these are the tools of the 
spiritualis: quae cum fuerint a nobis spiritual craft, which, if they be con- 
die noctuque incessabiliter adimpleta, stantly employed day and night, and 
et in die judicii reconsignata, ilia merces duly given back on the Day of Judge- 
nobis a Domino recompensabitur, quam ment, will gain for us from the Lord 
ipse promisit: Quod oculus non vidit, that reward which He Himself has 
nee auris audivit, nee in cor hominis promised " which eye hath not seen, 
ascendit, qua frcefaravit Deus his qui nor ear heard; nor hath it entered into 
diligunt eum. Officina vero ubi hasc the heart of man to conceive what God 
omnia diligenter operemur, claustra hath prepared for them that love 
sunt monasterii, et stabilitas in con- him." And the workshop where we 
gregatione. are to labour diligently at all these 

things is the cloister of the monastery, 
and stability in the community. 

This conclusion contains conditions and a promise. The promise 
is that Our Lord will give His workman the wage agreed on : a recom 
pense that the eye of man has not seen, that his ear has never heard 
described, whose worth the secret presentiments of his heart have 
never led him to suspect (Isa. Ixiv. 4; I Cor. ii. 9). This will be God 
Himself. We purchase God, we win Eternal Beauty, by means of 
these few good works; surely we shall not have laboured in vain. But 
we must employ and use properly the tools of the spiritual craft. 1 
The Father of the household has entrusted them to us, all in good 
condition; He keeps a list of them in His infallible memory; He knows 
what each of them can achieve; He will demand an exact account of them 
from us on the Day of Judgement when we return them to Him: " duly 
given back on the Day of Judgement." St. Benedict perhaps alludes to 
the practice on the great Roman estates where the farmer would receive 
all the tools necessary to work the land profitably, the owner keeping 
an exact inventory of them. 2 The labour demanded of us must be 
persevering and free from negligence: " constantly employed night and 
day labour diligently at all these things "; for the spiritual craft is the 
most delicate of all and does not tolerate slothful or capricious workmen. 

Like every trade and every craft, it is only practised well in a special 
workshop, in appointed and appropriate surroundings. The best tools 
become useless if the farmer is a gadabout. " For the farmer should 
not be a lounger, nor go beyond his estate, except it be to learn some 
method of husbandry; and this if it be near enough for him to return 

1 <?/. CASSIAN, Conlat.^ I., vii. 

2 VARRO, De re rustica, 1. I., c. xxii. COLUMELLA, De re rust., 1. I., c. vm. In 
Chapters XXXII. and XXXV. St. Benedict expresses himself in almost the same terms 
as these writers with regard to the implements and tools of the monastery. 


82 Commentary on the Rule of SA Benedict 

quickly." 1 Similarly, in the eyes of our Holy Father, the work of 
religious perfection is only carried on successfully in the enclosure of a 
monastery where one abides, in the bosom of a family which one never 
quits: " the cloister of the monastery and stability in the community." 
Enclosure and stability realize our separation from the world: thanks 
to the enclosure, the world does not reach us; thanks to stability we do 
not go to it. Until the sixth .century the great curse of monasticism was 
Instability and contact with the world; and it is easy to see that St. 
Benedict is continually counteracting this perilous custom. 2 

Stability is a mark of Benedictinism, and we should hold to it as 
to a family possession, We are free and at home only in our cloister, 
and we should love it as the surety of our vocation itself. We may say 
that nuns enjoy the ideal monastic enclosure, the privilege in its entirety. 
We may envy them and instead of finding reasons for leaving enclosure, 
seek means not to leave it. Undoubtedly the interpretation of the law 
of enclosure, as of that of poverty, belongs to the Abbot, and filial 
obedience fixes the measure and the meaning of monastic duty; but we 
should in our hearts keep a love of enclosure, even though due obedience 
may cause us to break it in the letter. There are external works which 
remain compatible with the essential requirements of stability; but in 
proportion as these works withdraw us more from the normal conditions 
of our life, there is need of a more and more formal and explicit ruling 
of the Abbot to bind us to them. Save in cases of necessity and 
superiors should strive prudently to reduce their number we have no 
reason to meddle with apostolic works, social questions, or politics. 
St. Benedict has bidden us only employ the tools of the spiritual craft, 
and these in the cloister. 

1 COLUMELLA, Uc. Clt. 

2 Read the end of the Prologue, the protest against gyrovagues in Chapter I., the 
end of Chapter LIIL, and Chapters LVIIL, LXI., LXVL, LXVII. 




Primus humilitatis gradus est obedientia 
sine mora. Haec convenit iis qui nihil 
sibi Christo carius existimant. Propter 
servitium sanctum quod professi sunt, 
seu propter metum gehennae, vel 
gloriam vitas aeternae, mox ut aliquid 
imperatum a majore fuerit, ac si divini- 
tus imperetur, moram pati nesciunt in 
faciendo. De quibus Dominus dicit: 
In auditu auris obedivit mihi. Et item 
dicit doctoribus: Qui vos audit, me 

The first degree of humility is 
obedience without delay. This be 
comes those who hold nothing dearer 
to them than Christ, and who on ac 
count of the holy servitude which they 
have taken upon them, and for fear of 
hell, and for the glory of life everlasting, 
as soon as anything is ordered by the 
superior, just as if it had been com 
manded by God Himself, are unable 
to bear delay in doing it. It is of these 
that the Lord says: "At the hearing 
of the ear he hath obeyed me." And 
again, to teachers he saith: " He that 
heareth you heareth me." 

THERE is no contradiction between the teaching with which this 
chapter begins and the teaching of Chapter VII., where obedience 
is represented as the third degree of humility; the point of view 
is different. The obedience which is spoken of here is not a 
special degree, with a second and a third to follow: St. Benedict insists 
on its sovereign value and declares that it is the summit, the " apex," 
the gist and most complete expression of humility. In fact, he is not 
treating of any sort of obedience, but of ready and loving obedience, 
which is the only true obedience, the only kind worthy of God and of 
ourselves; our Holy Father did not care to suppose that monks could be 
content with attenuated and lower forms of obedience. St. Benedict 
regards humility in the same way as in Chapter VII. ; it is less a particular 
virtue, than a state, a temperament, a fixed moral disposition. Obedience 
and humility, conceived as St. Benedict conceives them, may be defined 
by each other; if they are distinct, it is as cause and effect, or as sign and 
reality: the acts of obedience prepare us and lead us to humility that 
is to say, to being before God what we should be; and the perfection 
of this attitude, the attainment of humility, is prompt obedience. 

We may recognize three divisions in this chapter: the motives of 
obedience, its external qualities, its interior perfection. 

The mere fact of being creatures, and intelligent creatures, implies 
obedience. When God created, as theology tells us, He was not 
determined to the act or solicited by anything; but He had a design, and 
He has assigned an end, not for Himself and His action, but for things 
themselves. Creation has a moral end, a programme conceived extern 
ally by God and realizing itself in time under the hand of His omnipo 
tence. The end of creatures ist he good; and the essential good^of a 
creature is to be what God wishes it to be, to do what He wishes it to 

84 Commentary on the Rule of Sf. Benedict 

do, to move by[lts[actsjwhither He wishes tolead it that is to say, to the 
manifestation of the divine attributes. Everything co-operates after 
its kind, by means of the spontaneous activity of its being, in the execu 
tion of a vast general plan, the harmony of which we shall only appreciate 
in heaven; nothing may step aside and follow its own caprice; it is a 
harmony without discordant note. Ontologically every creature 
remains true and good: for it is from God and for God. All creation 
obeys and obeys well, with perfect pliancy, even miraculously; God may 
always expect from it what St. Benedict calls in Chapter LXXI. the 
" obediently bonum" And this universal subjection makes an imposing 
spectacle. But the material creation does the good without knowing 
it; cceli enarrant gloriam Dei, the heavens which sing the glory of God 
do not understand their song. Man alone is God s conscious and 
voluntary workman. His function and his happiness is to take part 
freely in the concord of creation, to be the loving fellow-worker of God. 
And every law which comes to us with authority tells us only how we may 
help God to realize His programme of good and beauty. Here we have 
the exact meaning of obedience. 

The same is true and especially true of the supernatural sphere. 
And if our Holy Father gives us motives for our obedience more attrac 
tive and efficacious than that philosophical and rather stoic counsel: 
" Unite yourself with the universe," does he not, nevertheless, from the 
Prologue onwards, depict the monk as the favoured workman for whom 
God looks ? Does he not here too invoke the " holy service " which 
the religious has vowed ? And does he not describe obedience as the 
practical conformity of our aims with those of God ? 

All motives call upon us to give ready obedience : loyalty, prudence, 
hope, and charity. Some men regard obedience as fidelity to the 
promises of their profession: we have given our word; and certainly 
on that day we did not promise to disobey nor make any reservation. 
Others remember that hell was made to engulf the rebellious angels; 
to them obedience presents itself as the very condition of their security; 
and though this be not the highest of motives, still it is good and super 
natural. Others, again, make obedience an exercise of the virtue of hope ; 
for, knowing that the promised reward is eternal life, they turn to 
obedience as to the price of future glory. 

But the deepest motive of obedience, the motive which precedes 
all the rest, and of which they are but partial expressions, is charity. 
Prompt obedience, says St. Benedict, befits those who hold nothing 
dearer to them than Christ (compare the twenty-first instrument of 
good works). Does it seem easy and ordinary to prefer nothing to 
Our Lord ? It may be so ; but practically, unknown perhaps to ourselves, 
there are often things which we love better than Him: some passion, 
idea, project, or desire. Hence come all our resistance, laziness, delay, 
difficulties. As long as we have our own personal programme, as long 
as we determine our own aim and the employment of our activity, so 
long we are not free and God is not free in us, perfect obedience is 

Of Obedience 85 

not yet ours. But from the day that we love nothing apart from God 
or more than God, we become in His hand a power which He can wield, 
a force He can utilize as He wills. How important it is not to build 
up again the edifice of our own will, which we threw down at the begin 
ning of our monastic life ! As we grow older there is this tendency, 
and sometimes our obedience itself becomes a snare. We should never 
unlearn the simplicity and unaffectedness of our first submission, since 
the thoroughness of our obedience will always be the true measure of 
our progress in the spiritual life. 

Those who love Christ, says St. Benedict, cannot endure a delay 
in the execution of an order; delays are to them impossible: moram pati 
nesciunt in faciendo. They have recognized the beloved voice of their 
Lord. 1 The person of the superior, whatever his character and his 
faults, never furnishes them with an excuse for refusal. They make 
no distinction between what comes directly from God and what comes 
from Him through the medium of a man. They always obey God; as 
Our Lord Himself says to His representatives: " He that hearethyou, 
heareth me" (Luke x. 16). To them, things have colour and savour 
only in so far as God wills them or loves them ; they are indifferent until 
their relation to the will of God is clear : mox ut aliquid imperatum a 
majore fuerit? The simple doctrinal fact that all our obedience has 
God for its end gives us the measure of its dignity and its merit; it also 
entails promptitude; and, with pride at being so well heard and under 
stood, God commends it in the words : " At the hearing of the ear they 
have obeyed me " (Ps. xvii. 45). 

It is only right that God should congratulate Himself on our obedi 
ence, since it is His work. We should understand this well. Our souls 
are sanctuaries, sanctuaries of the living God. The life of Our Lord has 
been poured out in us; and all the work of the Church has no other end 
than this, to ensure in each and in all the perfect growth of Christ. 
This is elementary and familiar doctrine. But perhaps it is a less 
familiar fact that in the supernatural order no work has real value ^ or 
extent except such as proceeds from this treasure of the divine life which 
is given to us. Nor is our obedience perfect until it has become a 
profound and permanent deference towards Him who lives in our hearts. 
Surely the most finished form of obedience is to give oneself to every 
good work under the interior impulse of God and His Holy Spirit. Is not 
this the sense in which the Apostle says that to suffer oneself to be 
led by the Spirit of God is to be truly a child of God ? And so God 
inclines us towards obedience, not merely by objective and external 
means, not only by suggesting to us motives of the natural or the super 
natural order, but also by making us share within our souls in the life, 
the powers, the virtues of Him who became obedient unto death, even 
to the death of the cross. 

It would be very easy to complete the praises of obedience and to 

1 A reminiscence of CASSIAN, Inst., IV., x., xxiv.; XII., xxxii. 

8 Stattmque cum tibi a majore fuerit imperatum (S. PACK., Reg. t xxx.). 

86 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

show that while remaining, like the virtue of religion, a moral virtue, 
it is nevertheless in contact with the theological virtues, which have 
God directly for their object and which unite us to Him. Obedience 
prepares the way for these virtues and is in a way permeated by them; 
from the point of view of its positive content, it practically implies the 
exercise of them. It is faith, since we express our belief in the will 
of God who conceals Himself in the person of our superior. It is hope, 
since we make God s plan our own, for time and for eternity. It is 
charity, since filial obedience as much as friendship realizes the definition : 
idem velle, idem nolle; and especially because, according to St. John: 
" He that keepeth his word, in him in very deed the charity of God 
is perfected. And by this we know that we are in him " (i John ii. 5). 
Furthermore, obedience implies the exercise of adoration in spirit and in 
truth, the essential homage which God asks from His redeemed creatures. 
We may say of obedience that it sums up Christianity: " He that doth 
the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom 
of heaven " (Matt. vii. 21). 

Ergo hi tales relinquentes statim Such as these, therefore, leaving 

quae sua sunt, et voluntatem propriam immediately all that is theirs, and 
deserentes, mox exoccupatis manibus, forsaking their own will, with their 
et quod agebant imperfectum relin- hands disengaged and leaving un- 
quentes, vicino obedientiae pede, juben- finished what they were about, with the 
tis vocem factis sequuntur; et veluti ready step of obedience, follow by 
uno momento prsedicta magistri jussic, their deeds the voice of him who com 
et perfecta discipuli opera, in velocitate mands; and so, as it were at the same 
timoris Dei, ambae res communiter instant, the bidding of the master and 
citius explicantur, quibus ad vitam the perfect work of the disciple are 
ceternam gradiendi amor incumbit. together more perfectly fulfilled in 

the swiftness of the fear of God, by 
those upon whom presses the desire 
of attaining eternal life. 

Here are given the qualities of obedience. The first is promptitude. 
St. Benedict has pointed to it already, but it seems to him so 
characteristic of true obedience that he takes pleasure in describing 
it, heaping up synonyms and most expressive images in what is perhaps 
the most elaborate passage in the whole of the Rule. 

An obedient man does not hesitate. Not only does he not look for 
excuses in order to evade his duty, he even dispenses with all deliberation 
and reasoning before he acts. Whatever the order may be and whence- 
soever it may come, it always finds him ready. Nature has equipped us 
poorly for this spontaneous action, this resolute simplicity. All change 
puts us out. Only with effort do we modify the state of our bodies, 
whether towards rest or towards motion; and, even without appealing 
to purely material beings, we know quite well that when we apply 
ourselves to any work our activity converges on it in such a way, that if 
we are called to leave it in order to begin another, some internal shock 
is inevitable; there rises within us a secret protest, a sort of involuntary 
hesitation. But in the man who has attained true obedience, we no 

Of Obedience 87 

longer find any trace of this " first movement." He leaves his work 
at once, he abandons his own will that is to say, his preference, his 
interest of the moment. His business falls from his hands and they are 
free. What matters it that his work is unfinished f 1 It may be taken 
up again if there be a chance; but it is not right that God should wait. 
For God has spoken, and for the obedient man there are only two things 
in the world, God and God s will with him. His obedience, so to say, 
keeps step with his commander; the execution of an order follows the 
order at once and closely. Or, rather, there is no appreciable interval 
between the one and the other: for in some sort these two things, the 
logically prior order of the master and its fulfilment by the disciple, 
occur in the same rapid instant of time, indivisibly. 

Obedience so described is a far different thing from the obedience 
that reproduces the passivity and inertia of a corpse, or the unthinking 
docility of the stick that we brandish in our hands. 2 It is said that 
a good commander ought to have his forces well in hand, so as to get 
from them with spirit and unity the maximum efficiency at the exact 
moment that it is needed. So is it with the obedient soul; true mastery, 
true interior sovereignty, is to have all one s vital forces in hand, well 
known and marshalled, so as to make them co-operate at the exact 
moment in the work which God asks from us. The soul is become an 
activity, but one which is always supple and always free, even in the act of 
its employment ; it is perfectly intelligent and gives to things their real 
value; it applies itself or detaches itself at God s will, through God and 
for God. The extraordinary promptitude of its obedience comes solely 
from its fear of God: in velocitate timoris Dei; it fears to please Him less; 
it is afraid of losing or checking its intercourse with God. Such a soul 
loves, and has no other desire than that of mounting quickly the road to 
eternal life : quibus ad vitam ceternam gradiendi amor incumbit. 

Ideo angustam viam arripiunt; These therefore choose the narrow 
unde Dominus dicit : Augusta via est, way, of which the Lord says : " Narrow 
quee ducit ad vitam; ut non suo arbitrio is the way which leadeth unto life " ; 
viventes, vel desideriis suis, et volup- so that living not by their own will, 
tatibus obedientes, sed ambulantes nor obeying their own desires and 
alieno judicio et imperio, in coenobiis pleasures, but walking according to the 
degentes, Abbatem sibi praeesse desi- judgement and command of another, 
derant. Sine dubio hi tales illam they live in community, and desire 
Domini sententiam imitantur, qua to have an Abbot over them. Such 
dicit: Non veni facer e voluntatem meant, as these without doubt fulfil that 
sedejus quimisitme. saying of the Lord: "I came not to 

do mine own will, but the will of him 

who sent me." 

Shall, we then calculate meanly and anxiously whether obedience 
has hardships, whether authority is sufficiently regulated, whether 

1 Cf. CASS., /., IV., xii. 

2 When the masters of the spiritual life use these comparisons they merely wish 
to express the perfect pliancy of the obedient soul, dead to its own will. Cf. S. NILI 
Liber de monastica exercitatione, c. xli. P.G., LXXIX., 769-772.- Comtitutwnes 
Societatis Jesu> P. VI., c. i. InsMutuw Soc. ^V(Prague, 1757), vol. i., p. 408, 

88 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

an order is easy or not ? God and eternity are at stake; what matter, 
then, the difficulties of the road ? It is the only one: scientes se per hanc 
obediently viam ituros ad Deum (knowing that by this way of obedience 
they will go to God), as St. Benedict says towards the end of his Rule. 
Our Lord Himself says the same: " Narrow is the way which leadeth 
to life." Yet we must enter by it. And it is only narrow because 
our hearts are narrow; it becomes a royal and triumphal road so soon as 
we open them to God. 

When they have once recognized that eternal life is only to be won 
by obedience, generous souls will choose their lot. We shall think no 
more of living as we will, of satisfying our desires and inclinations. We 
shall travel towards God, guided by the thought and the will of others ; 
we shall live hidden in a monastery ; like true cenobites, we shall willingly 
consent to have an Abbot over us, we shall readily accept this perpetual 
subjection: Abbatem sibi prezesse desiderant} How contrary is all 
this to the conception of obedience which worldly people have forged 
themselves ! Monks do not submit through compulsion, or weakness, 
or incapacity, or lack of initiative. 

When our obedience is such as St. Benedict wishes it to be, then 
the imitation of Our Lord is made perfect in us. " I am not come 
to do mine own will, but the will of him who sent me." All God s 
victories are won by obedience: it was so with that of which St. Michael 
was the instrument, it was so with the Incarnation, whether looked at 
from the side of Our Lord or of Our Lady; it was so with the Redemp 
tion, and in the Holy Eucharist Our Lord has found the means of being 
obedient unto the end. The obedient, therefore, are in good company. 
And in the face of such facts, the most elementary facts of our religion, 
what is all disobedience but disorder and folly ? 

Sed haec ipsa obedientia tune accep- But this very obedience will then 

tabilis erit Deo, et dulcis hominibus, be acceptable to God and sweet to 
si quod jubetur, non trepide, non tarde, men, if what is commanded be done 
non tepide, aut cum murmure vel cum not fearfully, tardily, nor lukewarmly, 
response nolentis efficiatur; quia obe- nor with murmuring, nor with an 
dientia quae majoribus praebetur, Deo answer showing unwillingness; for the 
exhibetur. Ipse enim dixit: Qui vos obedience which is given to superiors 
audit, me audit. is given to God, since He Himself 

has said: "He that heareth you, 
heareth me." 

Truly St. Benedict is anxious to make sure of the perfection of our 
obedience; therefore he insists at the end of this chapter on its interior 
qualities. It should become, he first says, " acceptable to God and 
sweet to men." Acceptabilis Deo. We remarked above that God takes 

1 St. Benedict once more contrasts the ideal of the cenobite with that of the sarabaite 
or gyrovague. His words recall CAIAN, Conlat.) XXIV., xxvi. (cf. Conlat., XVIII. , vii.), 
and SULPICIUS SEVERUS: Summum jus est (coenobitis\ sub abbatis imperio vivere, nihil 
arbitrio suo agere, per ornnia ad nutum illius potestatemque pendere. . . . Heec illorum 
prima virtus est, parere alieno imperio (Dial. I., c. x. P L.j XX., 

Of Obedience 89 

pride and pleasure in the obedience of His human creatures, even as 
He took pride in the fidelity of Job or the charity of St. Martin. Without 
any intention of making little of the obedience of the angels, we may be 
permitted to remark that it fulfils itself in a single act, which costs them 
no suffering, coming as it does from a nature which is perfectly balanced 
and not dislocated like ours; they have no martyrs, and no virgins. 1 
Perhaps, then, God s success is more apparent in us, where obedience is 
checked and thwarted by so many perverse solicitations; we are forced 
to repeat our acts of submission over and over again and to be recap 
turing incessantly our elusive nature. We are preparing a great 
triumph for God, " When he shall come to be glorified in his saints and 
to be made wonderful in all them who have believed " (2 Thess. i. 10). 

The final end, then, of our obedience is to please God. But, while 
that is the essential point, St. Benedict requires something more: 
et dulcis hominibus. This is a spirituality far removed from some 
modern conceptions, where, on pretext of seeing only God and referring 
all to Him, it is alleged that pleasure should not intervene in questions 
of duty, and that we degrade our obedience if we seek in it a personal 
joy, and a fortiori doubtless if we seek the pleasure of others. Our 
Holy Father knows that happiness is the end of all life and that God 
has devoted thereto the first desire of our souls. And, in the monastic 
life, charity and obedience, which rule all our behaviour, have for their 
result and even for their end to make us all happy together. " All 
do all things and suffer all things that they may be glad and rejoice." 2 
It is far from true that to seek to lighten the task of those who rule us 
and to be agreeable to them, is too human and too dangerous. 

Obedience will be sweet to God and man, and earth will become 
heaven (" Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ") if the order 
we have received is fulfilled under certain fixed conditions. Non 
tre-pide that is, without hesitation or fear: for there are not two sides 
between which our soul may waver irresolute; there is only one, the 
side of God. Non tarde, without delay, as though there were 
in us a vis inertias which hinders obedience. Non tepide? without 
lukewarmness, the soul lacking vigour and remaining as though weighed 
down by a secret affection which it keeps for some other object. Aut 
cum murmure, without any of that murmuring of which St. Benedict 
soon speaks explicitly; and finally and a fortiori, without protest or 
a bad grace : vel cum responso nolentis. And, after this exactly graduated 
description, St. Benedict repeats that the primary motive of obedience 
is that we obey God. We are uncompromising and proud enough to 
obey none but the Lord of heaven and earth. 

1 Cf. S. JOANN. CHRYS., De virginitate, x.-xi. P.G., XLVIII., 540. 

2 S. JOANN. CHRYS., Adversus oppugnatores vita monastica, 1. III., j i . P.G., XLVII., 

3 ... Trepidas et tepidas contradictiunculas (S. AUG., De consensu Evangel, 1. I., 13. 
P.L., XXXIV., 1048). De etnissa tardius vel tepidius oratione deflemus (CASS., Conlat. 
XXIII., vii.). 

90 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Et cum bono animo a discipulis And it ought to be given by disciples 

praeberi oportet, quia hilarem datorem with a good will, because " God loves a 

diligit Deus, Nam cum malo animo cheerful giver." For if the disciple 

si obedit discipulus, et non solum ore, obey with ill-will, and not merely 

sed etiam corde si murmuraverit : etsi murmur with his lips but even in his 

impleat jussionem, tamen acceptus jam heart, although he fulfil the command, 

non erit Deo, qui cor respicit mur- yet he will not be accepted by God, 

murantis; et pro tali facto nullam con- who regards the heart of the murmurer. 

sequiturgratiam; immo murmurantium And for such an action he shall gain 

pcenamincurritjSinoncumsatisfactione no reward; nay, rather, he shall incur 

emendaverit. the punishment due to murmurers, 

unless he amend and make satisfaction. 

We may distinguish three kinds of obedience: of act, of will, and of 
thought. The first is necessary, who doubts it ? But is it enough ? 
It is to make a Jew or a slave. That is true servitude, when our 
members reluctantly execute what our will disapproves ; the harmony is 
only material and external. Unless the grace of God and education 
have made us supple beforehand, our obedience is apt to be, to start 
with, rough and mechanical, something like those angular characters 
which our childish hands traced when the teacher held them in his own. 
In a reasonable being it is necessary, for real obedience, that the will, 
ranging itself alongside the will of another, should adopt and make its 
own the order that is given. But to live " by the judgement and will 
of another " is in St. Benedict s eyes 1 a thing of still greater perfection. 

We can well conceive this attitude: "My superior orders this. I 
shall do it, I wish to do it, and as well as I can. But it is absurd. It is 
obvious that there are better things to do." There we have no obedience 
of the understanding; there is rapine in the holocaust, it has lost its 
marrow. This may be military obedience, but it is not the obedience 
of a monk. " Very well," it may be answered, " perhaps your teaching 
is deduced from the text of the Rule; but it asks too much. In order 
to understand monastic obedience in that way, we shall have to believe 
in the universal infallibility of superiors. The Pope himself is only 
infallible in certain matters and under special conditions; but I must 
believe, according to this theory, that the first authority I meet is 
infallible, always and everywhere and in all circumstances. You ask 
me for too radical an abdication: I cannot go so far." It is a pity, I 
reply, for you are not, and you never will be an obedient man. And 
look what follows. Since we are all of one piece and since will must be 
guided by thought, you will not escape, even though you be a modernist, 
the psychological law of continuity and unity. Your obedience rests 
for a time on feeling alone or on habit; but little by little intellect must 
triumph over will. And then, because you would not give all, you will 
give nothing; you will attain, by degrees, the tranquil and obstinate 
exercise of your own will and contempt of obedience. 

" Am I then bound to believe that the prescribed action is the best 

1 As for ST. IGNATIUS in his celebrated letter De virtute obedientia, 

Of Obedience 91 

possible ?" There is no question at all of the absolutely good or the 
absolutely better. God is the absolute good. As soon as one enters 
the region of created things, the absolutely good no longer exists for 
practical purposes. It would be absurd to require it of a creature. 
God Himself does not achieve it outside Himself: the world is not 
the best of all possible worlds; and supernatural mysteries have their 
absolute grandeur only because they imply and contain God. You must 
require from your superiors only the good, and that a good which is 
fitted to a whole and will not disturb its harmony. Practically speak 
ing, for each one of us, the absolute good is that which we are ordered 
in the name of God. Undoubtedly the Abbot is not infallible ; but for all 
that he has hio mission, he is given a grace of state, he is well and fully 
informed. And what matter if he is wrong ? Provided that authority 
does not outstep its limits and does not command evil, we ordinary 
men cannot err and are infallible in always obeying. 

With obedience of act, of will, and of thought, all is complete, but 
on condition that this full gift be offered with a good heart : cum bono 
animo. We give to God, not only without measure, but gladly and 
gracefully, with a smile and the regret that we cannot give more: 
" Everyone as he hath determined in his heart, not with sadness or of 
necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver " (2 Cor. ix. 7). 1 If your 
heart is bitter and angry, cum malo animo, if there escape you words of 
protest or merely secret murmurings, your sacrifice is there, without 
doubt; but God does not accept such mere material sacrifices; in the 
Old Testament they were hateful to Him (Ps. xlix.); He wants the 
offering of a good will, and it is to such that His eyes are turned. 2 And 
what would be the result of a mere formal submission ? Such a sub 
mission experiences all the small trials that obedience brings, but none 
of its recompense and its joy; more than this, it incurs the punishment 
reserved for murmurers by monastic discipline. St. Benedict alludes, 
in ending, to the penances of the rule, and to the humiliations which 
monks will spontaneously impose on themselves, when having caught 
themselves in a struggle with obedience, though but for a moment, 
they wish to destroy for ever so dangerous a tendency. 

All the teaching of this chapter is, we may say, illustrated by the 
example of St. Maurus, and is admirably summarized in an antiphon of 
his office: O beatum virum, qui spreto sesculo jugum sanctce Regular a 
teneris annis amanter portavit ; et factus obediens usque ad mortem, 
semetipsum abnegavit, ut Cbristo totus adhareret. 3 

1 St. Paul alludes to a text of Ecclesiasticus of which St. Benedict also was thinking: 
Bono animo gloriam redde Deo et non minuas primitias mamium tuarum ; tn onini data 
hilaremfac vultum tuum (xxxv., ion). 

~ We should read: cor ejiis respicit murmurantem. 

3 O blessed man, who despising the world did lovingly bear the yoke of the Holy 
Rule from early youth; and, being made obedient unto death, denied himself that he 
might cleave wholly to Christ, 



OUR activity expresses itself in two ways, in work and in word: 
obedience determines the first, the law of silence rules the 
second. Our Holy Father obviously attaches considerable 
importance to silence; he devotes an entire chapter to it, and this 
he places among the chapters which describe the fundamental disposi 
tions of the monastic character; he returns to it in Chapters VII. , 
XXXVIIL, XLIL, XLVIIL, LIL, and alludes to it elsewhere also. 

We must not mistake the true meaning of the word taciturnitas 
which St. Benedict uses. To our ears " taciturnity " has an evil sound. 
A taciturn man is for us a self-centred, almost a crafty or cunning man; 
but St. Benedict had no thought of introducing such a character among 
his disciples. The Latin word means neither taciturnity nor simply 
silence, but rather the disposition to keep silence, the habit and the love 
of silence, the spirit of silence. 

Does this chapter institute perpetual silence ? St. Hildegard 
condemns absolute silence in the words which we quoted in the first 
chapter: Inhumanum est hominem in taciturnitate semper esse et non loqui. 1 
Speech has been given to us as the normal method of our intercourse 
with our kind; and when men are grouped together in community 
it seems natural a priori that they should use it, at least for that inter 
course which is indispensable to the life of body and soul. Nor has 
anyone ventured to condemn the tongue to perpetual silence; for all 
rules make it lawful to speak to one s superior and to praise God with 
the lips. With these exceptions, because of the innumerable evils 
which spring from the tongue, it has sometimes been held expedient 
to forbid all verbal intercourse. Such a measure is a bold one. It is 
the literal and material application of the gospel counsel: "If thy 
right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee ... if 
thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off and cast it from thee " (Matt. v. 
29-30). To repress temptation, this is plainly a sovereign remedy; and, 
if applied universally it would suppress at once both sin and the sinner. 
Not to speak that we may not transgress in word, is then a possible 
method. Without trying to determine whether it is the most perfect 
method we may at least ask ourselves if it effects its purpose. Alas ! 
it does not. In the first place because strained and exasperated nature 
often contrives ingenious escapes from so rigorous a law; and, above all, 
because the regime of signs and symbols, which must replace speech, 
presents the same dangers of dissipation along with new perils. Jealousy 
and misunderstanding are not banished; nay, they may even take a more 
formidable character than among people who converse, for these 

1 Reg. S. Bened. Explanatio. P.L., CXCVIL, 1056, 

The Spirit of Silence 93 

know one another better, and can exchange explanations. Experience 
proves, too, that the true silence of the soul may be obtained in another 

But what is the thought of our Holy Father on this point ? It 
is enough to read without prejudice, not only this present chapter, but 
also many other passages which may easily be found. The Rule provides 
for good and useful conversation; it orders silence more or less strict 
according to time and place; it proclaims it sometimes more insistently, 
sometimes more gently; it requires us to abstain at all times from 
scurrility, and in Lent to have fewer and more serious conversations. 
The intention of Chapter VI. is less to legislate on the subject of silence 
than to remind us of principles, to remind us that every real monastic 
life should be a life of recollection. Omni tempore silentio debent studere 
monacbi (Chapter XLII). 

But let us say a few words on the traditional practice. Absolute 
or quasi-absolute silence has always been the exception, even in the 
East, and in the times of primitive fervour. 1 Certainly the ancient 
monks spoke much less than we do, and worldly conversation was banned. 
Yet they did speak. The Rule of St. Basil, for instance, allows the 
breaking of silence for good reasons, in moderation and at fitting times. 2 
We see, too, from the Lives of the Fathers, and from Cassian, that 
spiritual conversations were frequent among religious; the Rule of 
St. Pachomius prescribes such conversation every morning. 3 St. 
Benedict having made no such rule as to regular conversation, it fell 
to superiors and customaries to supply it. At Cluny, in the time of 
Udalric, 4 there were every day (with the exception of Sundays and 
certain feast days or days of penance) two set times when the brethren 
could speak in the cloister: in summer after chapter and after None, 
in winter after chapter and after Sext. The morning conversation 
scarcely exceeded half an hour, that of the afternoon lasted sometimes 
less than a quarter of an hour; and even this was suppressed by Peter 
the Venerable. The monks took advantage of these moments of leisure 
to renew their stocks of pens, or paper, or books, to wash their refectory 
cups, to sharpen their knives, etc. In some monasteries all had to be 
present at the talk, which began with the word Benedicite. Even 
at Citeaux, where a rigorous silence was practised from the outset, the 
brethren could converse on edifying topics, if not every day, at least 
from time to time; 5 and many passages of St. Bernard, 6 though directly 

1 Cf. D. BESSE, Les Moines d> Orient, p. 489-495. 

2 Reg. contr., xl., cxxxiv.; Reg. brev., ccviii. 

3 C. xx. Cf. LADEUZE, Etude sur le cenobitisme pakhomien pendant le IV C siecle et 
la premiere moitit du V e , p. 291. 

4 UDALR., Consuet. Clun., 1. I., c. xviii., xl. 

5 Silentium autem per totumfere diem observantes mutms collocutionibus et collattombus 
spiritualibus unam sibi horam reservant, invicem consolantes et invicem instruentes QACQUES 
DE VITRY, Historia Occidentalis, c. xiv.). 

6 Tractatus de duodecim gradibus superbice, c. xiii. P.L., CLXXXIL, 964. Sermo 
XVII., de Diversis. P.L., CLXXXIII., 583 sq. 

94 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

concerned with the abuse of speech, allow us to suppose that speaking 
was at times legitimate and that these conferences had the character 
of real recreation. 

Our recreation, provided it remains conformable to the spirit of 
Chapter VI., is not, then, an innovation or relaxation. To absent oneself 
from it would be to commit a fault against the Rule, to lose an excellent 
opportunity of merit, and to deprive oneself of a rest which has become 
indispensable now that intellectual work has taken a large place in the 
monastic horarium. There are relaxations which are compatible with 
the gravity of the religious state and habitual union with Our 
Lord. Even for monks evrpcnreXia (a pleasant wit) may become a 
moral virtue. 1 

DE TACITURNATE. Faciamus quod Let us do as says the prophet: 
ait Propheta: Dixi, Custodiam vias " I said, I will take heed to my ways, 
meas, ut non dclinquam in lingua that I sin not with my tongue : I have 
mea: posui ori meo custodiam: obmutui, placed a watch over my mouth; I 
et humiliatus sum y et silui a bonis. Hie became dumb, and was silent, and held 
ostendit Propheta, si bonis eloquiis my peace even from good things." 
interdum propter taciturnitatem debet Here the prophet shows that if we 
taceri, quanto magis a malis verbis ought to refrain even from good words 
propter pcenam peccati debet cessari ? for the sake of silence, how much more 

ought we to abstain from evil words, 
on account of the punishment due to 
sin ! 

St. Benedict begins by laying down the principle of which the whole 
chapter is only the development. He borrows it, after the custom of the 
Fathers, from Sacred Scripture. In their literal sense these words of 
Psalm xxxviii. describe the silence of the just man under oppression, 
but St. Benedict gives them a general application; he sees in them the 
line of conduct suggested to all monks by prudence, wisdom, and 
humility. Since there is a danger of sinning with the tongue and 
of retarding our supernatural growth, we shall be attentive to all that 
passes our lips and guard them severely; we shall know how to be silent, 
even when good words are concerned. 

The Prophet s meaning is plain. While recommending us to abstain, 
at times, from good discourses in the spirit of recollection, he assuredly 
means that we must at once suppress every evil word. Such words are 
positively sinful, and the fear of punishment at least should close our 
mouths. Certain conversations are no more permissible in the world 
than in the cloister; there are others which ill become religious. The 
spirit of the world, made up of pride, levity, and disregard of the super 
natural, easily takes root in the mind of the talkative monk. Usually 

1 Cf. S. T., II. -II., q. clxviii., a. 2, Utrum in ludis possit esse aliqua virtus. The 
SALMANTICENSES discuss why St. Thomas has nowhere put silence among the virtues. 
The reason is, they say, because silence is not a special virtue: it only becomes " virtuous " 
by reason of the virtue which inspires it; it may imply the exercise of various virtues 
(Cursus theologies. Tract. XII., Arbor prcedicamentalis virtutum^ ed Palme, t. VI., 
pp. 503-504). 

The Spirit of Silence 95 

it is charity that suffers. Alas, how little remains of certain habitual 
conversations when all unkind criticism has been subtracted ! 

Ergo quamvis de bonis et sanctis Therefore, on account of the im- 

ad aedificationem eloquiis, perfectis portance of silence, let leave to speak 
discipulis, propter taciturn! tatis gravi- be seldom granted even to perfect 
tatem, rara loquendi concedatur licen- disciples, although their conversation 
tia, quia scriptum est: In multiloquio be good and holy and tending to edi- 
non effugies peccatum, Et alibi: Mors fication; because it is written: " In 
et vita in manibus lingua. Nam loqui much speaking thou shalt not avoid 
et docere magistrum condecet: tacere sin;" and elsewhere: "Death and 
et audire discipulo convenit. life are in the power of the tongue." 

For it becomes the master to speak 
and to teach, but it beseems the 
disciple to be silent and to listen. 

Since we must avoid the faults of the tongue and their punishment, 
some reserve is imposed on us, even in the matter of good, pious, and 
edifying conversations, for not even these are without danger. St. 
Benedict, like the ancient monks, evidently admits the principle of 
spiritual conversations, but on condition that they are not multiplied, 
and that, under pretext of mutual assistance, the law of silence is not 
evaded. This law remains weighty, even for more advanced disciples, 
even for the perfect or those who think themselves such. And our Holy 
Father thus puts aside with a word the objection that these conversations 
can be dangerous only for novices. It is a general principle, and one 
enunciated by the Spirit of God, that where there is much talking it is 
hard to avoid sin (Prov. x. 19). And elsewhere it is written that " death 
and life are in the power of the tongue" (Prov. xviii. 21). There it 
nothing better than the tongue and nothing worse," as the fable says. 
We should read in St. James the classical passage on the evils that spring 
from the tongue. Good conversations, then, are only good if they are 
authorized, short, and rare. 

St. Benedict suggests one of the dangers of these spiritual conversa 
tions. Some speak, others listen; perhaps it is always the same persons 
who do the speaking: they are " spiritual," they have read a great deal, 
prayer has no more secrets for them, they are animated with a holy fer 
vour. Or each offers advice, puts himself forward as teacher and director. 
But all this is often only pride and delusion; the hearers are bored and 
no one is profited. In a monastery all are pupils and disciples; divine 
instruction is given by proper authority. " It becomes the master 
to speak and to teach, but it beseems the disciples to be silent and to 
listen." 1 

Is, then, all spiritual conversation at times of recreation banned ? 
God forbid that we should be ashamed to pronounce His Holy Name. 

1 The thought is CASSIAN S: ... Ut indicas summum ori tuo silentium. Hie est 
enim primus disciplines actualis ingressus, ut omnium seniorum institute atque sententias 
intento corde et quasi muto ore suscipias ac diligenter in pectore tuo condens ad perficienda 
ea potius quam ad docenda fes tines. Ex hoc enim cenodoxiee perniciosa pr<ssumptio> ex 
illo autemfructus spiritualis scientice pullulabunt (Conlat., XIV., ix.). 

96 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

But it is fitting that such subjects should be introduced quietly, and 
discussed with moderation, without any display. Those whose souls 
are habitually turned towards God do not think it necessary to proclaim 
the fact by eloquent protestations; their peace and happiness shine forth 
of themselves. We are not forbidden to speak of study in recreation 
time or to broach a serious subject, provided that we avoid a dogmatic 
tone, interminable discussions, and allusions that tend to cause dissension. 
We must not monopolize the conversation from beginning to finish, 
completely and in a very loud tone of voice, with stories which are not 
always very interesting and which people have often heard. 

Apart from times of recreation a monk should be sparing of his 
words. Though the Constitutions allow him five minutes for the 
exchange of useful information, he will not think himself obliged to 
seek and multiply occasions ; and when the conversation is to be longer 
he will obtain permission. He is able to meet his brethren without 
addressing them, without firing off some jest, without dissipating him 
self over many things. Our Holy Father says later that a wise man may 
be known by the sobriety of his speech; and the Imitation, which 
has some excellent pages on silence, warns us that only those can securely 
speak who love to be silent : Nemo secure loquitur nisi qui libenter tacet. 

Et ideo, si quae requirenda sunt a And therefore, if anything has to 

priore, cum omni humilitate et sub- be asked of a superior, let it be done 
jectione reverentiae requirantur, ne with all humility and subjection of 
plus videatur loqui quam expedit. 1 reverence, lest he seem to say more 

than is expedient. 

The objection might be raised: Well, if spiritual conversations with 
one s brethren have their dangers and must be controlled, at least it 
is always lawful for us to talk to the Abbot and our elders. It is lawful, 
but with all humility, submission, and reverence, and without speaking 
more than is fitting. 2 Our Holy Father s idea is certainly not to 
require the disciple to lessen his intercourse with his superiors ; he does 
not recommend him to be so restrained and formal as to weigh and pre 
pare and count his words; but he knows that questions and objections 
are often put in a spirit of vainglory. 

Direction of conscience itself should not become an idle chat. " I 
should say," wrote Bossuet to Sister Cornuau, 3 "that there seems to 
me a manifest defect in present-day piety: people talk too much about 
their prayer and their state. Instead of worrying about the degrees 
of prayer, they ought, without all this introspection, to pray simply 

1 St. Benedict continues to take his inspiration from CASSIAN, who wrote imme 
diately after the words cited before : Nibil itaque in conlatione seniorum proferre audeas; 
nisi quod interrogare te aut ignoratio nocitura aut ratio necessaries cogmtionis impulerit, 
ut quidam vance gloria amore distenti pro ostentatione doctrines ea qua optime norunt 
interrogare se simulant. 

2 Hoc, quod dicit : ne videatur plus loqui quam expedit, non est in Regula, sed subauditio 
est (HILDEMAR). As a matter of fact the manuscripts which best represent the Carlo- 
vingian and Cassinese traditions have not got this conclusion. 

3 September 1 7, 1 690 (URBAIN et LEVESQUE, Correspondance de Bossuet, t. IV., p. 1 1 1). 

The Spirit of Silence 97 

as God gives them to pray, and not have so much to say about it." 
And St. John of the Cross says: " What is wanting, if there be anything 
wanting, is not writing or talking there is more than enough of that 
but silence and action. Moreover, talking distracts the soul, while 
silence joined to action produces recollection and gives the spirit a 
marvellous strength. Therefore, when one has made a soul know all 
that is necessary for its progress, it has no further need to listen to the 
words of others or to talk itself." 1 

We should note that even when we are speaking to God, the Gospel 
urges us not to be great talkers : " And when you are praying speak not 
much as the heathens do. For they think that in their much speaking 
they may be heard. Be you not therefore like to them " (Matt. vi. 7-8). 
And, except when divine grace calls us to prolong our prayer, St. 
Benedict tells us in a later chapter that prayer to be pure should be brief. 
Silence is one of the characteristics of God, Non in commotione Dominus. 
His greatest operations ad extra are achieved without noise, in mystery: 
" Truly thou art a hidden God, God of Israel, our Saviour " (Isa. xlv. 15). 
And the saints who have approached most nearly to God have become 
great votaries of silence. 2 

Scurrilitates vero vel verba otiosa But as for buffoonery or silly words, 

et risum moventia, aeterna clausura such as move to laughter, we utterly 

in omnibus locis damnamus, et ad tale condemn them in every place, nor do 

eloquium discipulum aperire os non we allow the disciple to open his 

permittimus. 3 mouth in such discourse. 

Here we have a fourth and last class of conversations: buffoonery, 
idle words, 4 worldly talk, talk that has for sole end the causing of laughter 
(see the fifty-fourth and fifty-fifth instruments of good works) ; these are 
banned for ever, aterna clausura, and everywhere; a monk s lips shall 
not utter such talk. Our Holy Father interdicts it with vigour and with 
a certain solemnity. 

He does not mean to forbid gaiety in recreation. There is wisdom 
in avoiding the prudery which is shocked and scandalized by everything; 
when we are good, the peace and innocence of childhood, its moral 
naYvete, return to us. Still it remains true that there are certain 
subjects, a certain coarseness, a certain worldly tone, which should never 
enter our conversation. These things are not such as to stir wholesome 
laughter; there are matters which one should not touch, which it is 
wholesome to avoid. Our own delicacy of feeling and the thought of 
Our Lord will save us from all imprudence. 

When St. Benedict forbids frivolous conversation " in all places " 

1 Letter III., to the nuns of Veas. 

2 Read BOSSUET, Elevations sur les mysteres, XVIIP semaine, 1 1 e elc-v. 

8 Si quis clericus aut monachus verba scurrilia^ joculatoria, risumque moventia loquitur , 
acerrime corripiatur (an ancient African Council, cited by the Decree of GRATIAN; 
cf. MANSI, t. III., col. 893). See also ST. JEROME, Ep. LIL, ad Nepotianum. P.L., 
XXII., 7 ,j. 

4 ST. BASIL thus defined idle words: Generaliter omnis sermo gut non proficit ad 
aliquant gratiam fidei Cbristi (Reg- contr., xl.). 

98 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

he leaves it to be understood that there are places where good conver 
sation is lawful, and other places which are sacred to silence; in 
Chapter XLII. he speaks of sacred times. Monastic tradition deter 
mined very early that absolute silence should reign in the church and in 
the refectory, even outside of conventual acts. At Cluny and else 
where the dormitory and the kitchen were added, and often the chapter 
room, the calefactory, the sacristy, and the cloister, especially in the 
part which was next the church. In order not to break silence in these 
privileged places a whole language of signs was adopted at Cluny 1 
and Citeaux. St. Benedict prescribes signs during meals, and before 
him St. Pachomius made use of the same method in certain cases. 2 

So far we have spoken of the silence of words, the only sort of silence 
of which our Holy Father speaks. But there is also a material silence, 
the absence of noise. A nun of the Visitation Order asked St. Francis 
de Sales what she should do to reach perfection. The holy Bishop, 
who doubtless knew whom he was addressing, replied: " Sister, I think 
Our Lord wants you to close doors quietly." A quite personal piece 
of advice not without its humorous sting, but one which in a large 
community and a sonorous house may become a general and ever 
appropriate recommendation. This external silence is favourable to 
prayer and study; one cannot pray easily in the midst of a bombardment. 
... It may not, then, be superfluous to watch one s manner of walking, 
of sneezing, of blowing one s nose. Need we mention the dread turmoil 
with which meals begin, or the cries that ring through the monastery 
in times of recreation ? 3 All such things disappear with good taste 
and education, and when each remembers that he is not the only 
person in the world 

Finally, there is interior silence. It is the very reason and end of 
all other sorts of silence. Though prepared and facilitated by them, 
yet it is very distinct from them in practice. Some souls do not care 
for external noise, nor take to endless conversations, and yet they are 
never in a state of silence. For behind the dumb lips there is a continuous 
hubbub of interior talk, in exact proportion to their unmortified 
passions. When Our Lord wished to declare the happiness and sim 
plicity of contemplation, He said to Martha: "Martha, Martha, thou 
art anxious and troubled about many things." Is not this the reproach 
that He most often has need to address to us ? Have we ever tried 
to review rapidly the infinite variety of objects and pictures which have 
just occupied the field of our interior vision ? Memories, grudges, 
projects, regrets, vain quests, angry emotions, vexations, scruples how 
many winds and waves buffet this world of our secret life ! Some 
brother whom we see suddenly recalls a long series of experiences; and 
we abandon ourselves to following this foolish scent so far and so long 
that we do not recover ourselves. A mere detail is enough to suggest 

1 UDALR., Consuet. Clun., 1. II., c. vi. BERNARD., Ordo Clun., P. I., c. xvii. Constit 
Hirsaug., 1. 1., c. vi.-xxv. 

2 Reg., cxvi, Cf. S. BASIL., Reg. brev., cli. 

The Spirit of Silence 99 

a whole romance. Sometimes it is a pleasant little scene in which we 
review the past, or remember its joys and circumstances. Our soul 
becomes an entrance hall, a cinematograph, a phonograph, a kaleido 
scope. The distractions of which we generally accuse ourselves are but 
rapid and unimportant parentheses in our lives; the serious distractions 
are those which control all our activity and lead it away from God. 

The fundamental purpose of silence is to free the soul, to give it 
strength and leisure to adhere to God. It frees the soul, just as obedi 
ence gives the will its proper mastery. It has, like work, the twofold 
advantage of delivering us from the low tendencies of our nature and of 
fixing us in good. It sets us, little by little, in a serene region, sapientum 
templa serena, where we are able to speak to God and hear His voice. 
So silence in its turn is related to faith and charity. And just as in 
obedience we are not required to be slaves, so we are not to be silent in 
a mere access of vexation: all its protective limitations are something 
other than mortifications. Silence is a joyous work; and that is why, 
in the old Customaries, festivals were days of rigorous silence: propter 
festivitatis reverentiam. But, for the Christian soul, every day is a 



DE HUMILITATE. Clamat nobis 
Scriptura divina, fratres, dicens: Omnis 
qui se exaltat, humiliabitur y et qui se 
humiliat^ exaltabitur. Cum haec ergo 
dicit, ostendit omnem exaltationem 
genus esse superbiae: quod se cavere 
Propheta indicat, dicens: Domine, non 
est exaltatum cor meum, neque elati sunt 
oculi mei; neque ambulavi in magnis, 
neque in mirabilibus super me. Sed 
quid ? Si non humiliter sentiebam, sed 
exaltavi animam meam; sicut ablactatus 
super matre sua, ita retributio in anima 
me a. 

The Holy Scripture cries out to us, 
brethren, saying: "Everyone that 
exalteth himself shall be humbled, and 
he that humbleth himself shall be 
exalted." In saying this, it teaches 
us that all exaltation is a kind of pride, 
against which the prophet shows him 
self to be on his guard when he says : 
" Lord, my heart is not exalted nor 
mine eyes lifted up ; nor have I walked 
in great things, nor in wonders above 
me." And why? " If I did not think 
humbly, but exalted my soul: like a 
child that is weaned from his mother, 
so wilt thou requite my soul." 

THE teaching of this chapter is again based on a pronouncement 
of Holy Scripture, a solemn pronouncement and divine procla 
mation, delivered in terms so clear as to be understood even by 
those who are dull of hearing. " Everyone that exalteth himself 
shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted " 
(Luke xiv. n). Here is an axiom of faith, formulated by Our Lord 
Himself in His teaching and fulfilled first in His life; it admits of no 
contradiction. So we shall not consider the apparent paradox contained 
in the promise of glory to the humble and humiliation to the proud; 
it is a paradox familiar to Our Lord, and in proof we need only recall 
the eight beatitudes. 

When Holy Scripture speaks thus and in such general terms, con 
tinues St. Benedict, it gives us to understand that every kind of personal 
exaltation is a form of the vice which is opposed to humility. Self-love 
and pride manifest themselves under the various species of exaltation, 
whether it be exaltation in thought that is, arrogance; exaltation in 
words that is, boastfulness; exaltation in deeds that is, disobedience; 
exaltation in desire that is, ambition; exaltation in aims that is, pre 
sumption. The Prophet, according to his own testimony (Ps. cxxx.), 
was on his guard against this elation and these aims; in the depth of his 
heart as well as in his external action he would not so exalt himself. 
And why ? asks St. Benedict. Because, replies the Psalmist, if my 
thoughts were not humble, if I suffered my soul to be lifted up, Thou 
wouldst have treated it as the child that is weaned by its mother, and 
put away from her breast. The Psalmist had the fear of God and 
dreaded to lose the kindness and favour which are promised to the humble 
alone: "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble" 
(James iv. 6). 


Of Humility 101 

Unde, fratres, si summae humilitatis Whence, brethren, if we wish to 

volumus culmen attingere, et ad exal- arrive at the highest point of humility 

tationem illam caelestem, ad quam per and speedily to reach that heavenly 

praesentis vitae humilitatem ascenditur, exaltation to which we can only ascend 

volumus velociter pervenire, actibus by the humility of this present life, 

nostris ascendentibus scala erigenda est, we must by our ever-ascending actions 

quae in somno Jacob apparuit, per erect such a ladder as that which Jacob 

quam et descendentes et ascendentes beheld in his dream, by which the 

Angeli monstrabantur. Non aliud sine angels appeared to him descending 

dubio descensus ille et ascensus a nobis and ascending. This descent and 

intelligitur, nisi exaltatione descendere, ascent signify nothing else than that 

et humilitate ascendere. Scala vero we descend by exaltation and ascend 

ipsa erecta, nostra est vita in saeculo, by humility. And the ladder thus 

quae humiliato corde a Domino erigitur erected is our life in the world, which, 

ad caelum. Latera enim hujus scalae if the heart be humbled, is lifted up 

dicimus nostrum esse corpus et animam, by the Lord to heaven. The sides of 

in quibus lateribus diversos gradus the same ladder we understand to be our 

humilitatis vel disciplinae vocatio divina body and soul, in which the call of God 

ascendendos inseruit. has placed various degrees of humility 

or discipline, which we must ascend. 

The point is, then, that we must not lose God, as we shall do by 
exaltation, that we must remain attached to Him, as a child to its 
mother s breast, so as to live by Him and to grow in Him; and this is 
the work of humility. " Unless you be converted and become as little 
children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever 
therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the 
kingdom of heaven" (Matt, xviii. 3-4). Do you really want God ? 
Do you wish to go to Him rapidly and surely 1 and to attain the glorious 
exaltation of heaven ? If so you must renounce the false exaltation of 
the present life and consent to be humble. Humility, it would seem, 
makes us descend to the confines of nothingness; and yet it is in its 
depths that we encounter the fulness of being. So it is more truly an 
ascension, for the final term of this abasement is really a lofty summit 
i.e., God. Therefore we must make of our lives and actions a sort of 
ladder of humility; we must erect the ladder of Jacob. 

Let us recall the passage of Genesis (xxviii.). Jacob was in flight 
from the wrath of Esau. He went to sleep on a stone, and a mysterious 
dream showed him a ladder erected, by which angels were ascending and 
descending. Taken according to the literal sense this is a symbol of 
Divine Providence: angels go out from God as the executors of His 
orders and the bearers of His inspirations and graces; angels return to 
God as the messengers of creation, carrying to Him the prayers and 
works of rational creatures. Our Holy Father recalls this mission of the 
angels farther on; but in this place he takes the words of Genesis in an 
accommodated sense. " It is plain," he says, " that for us this descent 
and ascent signify nothing else than that we descend by exaltation and 
ascend by humility." 

1 Si gnis velit ad perfectionem velociter pervenire . . . (RufiN., Hist, monacb. 
c. xxxi. ROSWEYD, p. 484). 

IO2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

By humility the good angels ascended to God and were established 
in Him; by pride the bad angels fell from heaven. Humility alone 
made the difference; the same road pursued in opposite directions led the 
one kind to glory and the others to ruin. Now, with men as with the 
angels, the economy of salvation is simple, for all resolves itself into this 
twofold motion on the single ladder of humility. St. Benedict neglects 
the motion of illusory exaltation to deal only with the real exaltation, 
and he makes the meaning of his image clear by the details. The ladder 
erected to heaven is our life on this earth and all the acts that rise in a 
heart trained to humility. Since the ladder represents our life, we may 
regard body and soul, the two elements that go to the making of man, 
as the sides or the uprights of this ladder. In these uprights are inserted 
various steps of humility and moral perfection, which our vocation from 
God invites us to climb. 1 " In his heart he hath disposed to ascend by 
steps in the vale of tears " (Ps. Ixxxiii. 6). We should note with what 
anxiety for sound doctrine St. Benedict determines the part played by 
God in our ascension towards Him : God calls, God provides the means 
to reach Him, and supplies the steps of the ladder: " the call of God hath 
placed various degrees "; and it is God who sets up the ladder and helps 
us to climb it by His grace: " is lifted up by the Lord to heaven." 

The allegory of the heavenly ladder is a favourite with the old writers. 
It illumines with a pleasing touch the Passion of SS. Perpetua and 
Felicity; St. Basil, in a homily on the first psalm, compares the pro 
gressive exercise of the Christian virtues to the ascent of Jacob s ladder. 2 
Shortly after St. Benedict, Cassiodorus also uses this comparison and 
with expressions which recall the text of the Rule. 3 Then St. John 
Climacus, in his treatise The Scale of Paradise which earned him his 
surname, describes the spiritual life under the figure of a ladder of thirty 
steps. Cassian does not speak explicitly of a ladder, but he shows how 
man arrives at perfection by attaining various degrees of humility; 4 

1 St. Benedict s words recall this passage of a Paschal letter of THEOPHILUS OF 
ALEXANDRIA, translated by ST. JEROME: Quod intelligent et patriarcha Jacob, sealant 
cernit in somnis, cujus caput peningebat usque ad ccelum, per quam diversis virtutum 
gradibus ad superna conscenditur, et homines provocantur, terrarum deserentes bumilia, 
cumEcclesiaprimitivorumdominiccepassionisfestacelebrare (S. HIERON., Epist. XCVIII., 
3. P.L., XXII., 793). 

Quisquis igitur ad dfwprjTiK^v voluerit pervenire. . . . Gradus quidam ita ordinati 
atque distincti sunt, ut humana humilitas possit ad sublime conscendere . . . (CASS., 
Conlat., XIV., ii.). 

2 P.O., XXIX., 217 sq. 

3 Exposttio in Ps. cxix. P.L., LXX., 901-902. De Institutione divin. Litter., 
praef. P.L., ibid., 1107. 

* Principium nostree salutis ejusdemque custodia timor Domini est. Per hunc enim et 
initium conversionis et vitiorum purgatio et virtutum custodia his qui inbuuntur ad viam 
perfectionis adquiritur. . . . Humilitas vero his indiciis conprobatur : primo si morti- 
jicatas in sese omnes habeat voluntates ; secundo si non solum suorum actuum, verum etiam 
cogitationum nihil suum celaverit senior em ; tertio si nihil suee discretioni, sed judicio ejus 
universa committal ac monita ejus sitiens ac libenter auscultet : quarto si in omnibus servet 
obedientia mansuetudinem patientieeque constantiam / quinto si non solum injuriam 
inferat nulli, sed ne ab olio quidem sibimet inrogatam doleat atque tristetur ; sexto si nihil 
agat, nihil prcesumat, quod non vel communis regula vel majorum cohortantur exempla ; 

Of Humility 103 

and it is from him that St. Benedict has borrowed the whole framework 
of his chapter. The differences are small. Cassian enumerates only 
ten degrees, while St. Benedict gives twelve; but we may note that the 
fear of God which St. Benedict puts down as the first degree, is given by 
Cassian in the forefront of his treatment, but not in the series of the 
degrees : " The beginning of our salvation and its guard is the fear of 
God," says Cassian. So the twelfth degree alone belongs to St. Benedict. 
The order of the degrees is not always the same, and St. Benedict has 
much expanded the brief enumeration of Cassian. 

St. Thomas Aquinas in an article of the Summa Theological shows the 
appropriateness of this division of humility into twelve degrees. He 
enumerates them in the reverse order, so that the twelfth becomes the 
first, the eleventh the second, and so on, and he tells us what led him to 
choose this inverted order, though St. Benedict had adopted the order 
of development. He explains that his enumeration proceeds from 
external to internal, while St. Benedict began with the internal. With 
out ignoring the theoretical and practical priority of interior dispositions, 
or the fundamental character and solidity of the fear of God: " Rever 
ence for God is the principle and root," he notes that man obtains 
humility by the co-operation of two forces : " First and chiefly by the 
gift of grace : and in this respect the internal precedes the external. But 
it is otherwise with human effort: a man first puts a check on externals 
and later comes to eradicate the internal; and it is according to this order 
that the degrees of humility are here given." Have we not two methods 
of spirituality sketched in these words ? An opportunity to compare 
them will occur later. But we may remark at this point that a man s 
effort may just as well begin with the internal, and basing itself chiefly 
on the reality of the new life that has been created in him, so follow 
a line parallel to the expansion of grace. 

There is besides a more considerable difference between St. Bene 
dict s point of view and that of the angelic Doctor. St. Thomas regards 
humility as a particular virtue, designed to repress the immoderate love 
of greatness ; it is a subdivision of moderation, which belongs to temper 
ance as primary cardinal virtue. To St. Benedict, not only does humility 
imply the exercise of several other virtues, such as obedience or patience, 
which St. Thomas also recognizes, but it is as well a general virtue, 
mother and mistress of all virtue; it is the attitude which our soul 
habitually takes up in the sight of God, of herself, of everything and 

septimo si omni vilitate contentus sit et ad omnia se qua sibi prabenlur velut operarium 
malumjudicarit indignum ; octavo si semetipsum cunctis inferior em non superficiepronunttet 
labiorum, sed intimo cordis credat affectu ; nono si linguam cohibeat vel non sit damosus 
in voce ; decimo si non sit facilis ac promptus in rim. Talibus namque indiciis et bis 
similibus humilitas vera dinoscitur. Qua cum fuerit in veritate possessa, conjestim te ad 
caritatem, qua timorem non habet, gradu excelsiore perducet, per quam umversa, qua 
prius non sine poena formidinis observabas, absque ullo labor e velut naturahter incipies 
custodire, non jam contemplatione supplicii vel timoris ullius, sed amore ipsius bom et 
delectations virtutum (Inst., IV., xxxix.). 
1 II.-IL, q. clxi., a. 6. 

1 04 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

everybody. St. Benedict shows in detail how it embraces all the forms 
of our activity and governs all our steps. The quotations from Scripture 
with which the chapter opened, and the very allegory of the ladder, 
have already indicated that St. Benedict takes humility in its widest 
acceptation. The seventh chapter is justly regarded as the finished 
expression of monastic spirituality. 

Why are there twelve degrees, no more and no less? Such divisions 
are always somewhat arbitrary, but we only ask that they should fit the 
teaching and facilitate exposition. The commentators, as we might 
expect, find no difficulty in showing, each in his own way, the complete 
appropriateness of the number twelve, while observing, as does D. Mege 
after St. Bernard, 1 that it is more profitable to climb the degrees of 
humility than to count them. St. Benedict has not enumerated them 
at random, as we shall see ; yet there is nothing to show that they corres 
pond to distinct and successive stages of spiritual growth, and that one 
could compare them for example to the seven mansions of St. Teresa s 
Interior Castle. They describe the most characteristic dispositions 
of the humble soul towards the essential duties and principal circum 
stances of the supernatural and monastic life. Cassian calls them the 
indications or marks of humility. So we need not have attained one 
of these steps in order to ascend to the next; and although one or other 
mode of humility may belong more especially to a determined period 
in the spiritual life, it is wise to cultivate the whole of these dispositions 
at the same time, for it is their complete realization which constitutes 

Primus itaque humilitatis gradus The first degree of humility, then, 

est, si timorem Dei sibi ante oculos is that a man always keep the fear of 

semper ponens, oblivionem omnino God before his eyes, avoiding all forget- 

fugiat, et semper sit memor omnium fulness; and that he be ever mindful of 

quae prsecepit Deus, qualiter contem- all that God hath commanded, and that 

nentes Deum in gehennam pro peccatis those who despise God will be con- 

incidunt, et vitam aeternam quae timen- sumed in hell for their sins; and that 

tibus Deum prseparata est, animo suo he ever reflect that life everlasting is 

semper revolvat. 2 Et custodians se prepared for them that fear Him. 2 And 

omni hora a peccatis et vitiis, id est keeping himself at all times from sin 

cogitationum, linguae, oculorum, ma- and vice, whether of the thoughts, the 

nuum, pedum vel voluntatis propriae, tongue, the eyes, the hands, the feet, 

sed et desideria carnis amputare fes- or his own will, let him thus hasten 

tinet. to cut off the desires of the flesh. 

Christian humility is not a mere external and formal habit, attained 
by practice and exercise, nor is it a virtue of the lips, nor does it consist 
in the contempt of self. There are beings who are perfectly abject, 
who despise themselves sincerely, yet do not for this deserve to be called 
humble. It is not a virtue of the pure intellect, but resides in the will. 

1 Tractatus de gradibus humilitatis et superbia, c. i. P.Z., CLXXXII., 941. 

2 D. BUTLER reads : . . . qua pracepit Deus : ut qualiter et contemnentes Deum 
gehenna de peccatis incendat^ et vita eeterna, qua timentibus Deum pr&parata est, animo 
suo semper evolvat. 

Of Humility 105 

Nevertheless, it must be recognized that humility is based upon spiritual 
understanding and faith, and St. Benedict was not wrong on this point. 
According to him the whole edifice of humility is based upon an exact 
knowledge, so that humility may be defined as an attitude of " truth." 
First of all it regulates our relation to God. For this end we must know 
what God is in Himself and what He is in relation to us, and we must 
be aware of His presence. Our spiritual education is the fruit of a 
twofold looking: God s looking on us, our looking to Him. When our 
gaze meets God s and this state is prolonged and becomes habitual, 
then our souls possess the " fear of God." According to some Hebrew 
scholars we may establish a correspondence between the word which 
means to fear and that which means to look. When we were little 
children, we watched the looks of our mother so as to estimate the value 
of our actions, and this was the beginning of conscience. The look that 
we keep steadily fixed on God becomes the final form of our conscience 
as children of God: " To thee have I lifted up my eyes: who dwellest 
in heaven " (Ps. cxxii.). 

There is hardly any disposition of soul that is so assiduously exacted 
in the Old Testament as the fear of God. It is given as the beginning 
of wisdom: " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." It is 
presented as its attainment : " To fear God is the fulness of wisdom. . . . 
The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom " (Ecclus. i. 20, 22); and 
Holy Scripture likes to sum up the sanctity of its great men by saying 
that they " feared God." Finally it is offered as the best instrument 
of perfection, and the Psalmist asks God that He would deign to " pierce 
his flesh with his fear." We should also note that the fear of God is 
a variable quantity, that it takes diverse character and value according 
as it belongs to the old economy or the new, and in its expression in the 
individual life. There is the fear of the slave, of the son, of the spouse; 
there is temporal fear and eternal fear: "The fear of God is holy, 
enduring for ever and ever," 1 for fear endures even among those who are 
with God. 2 It is among the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and without it 
there is no spiritual life. Our Holy Father would have it rooted in the 
hearts of his monks. We should read attentively these pregnant texts 
and understand all that is implied in this notion of the fear of God, 
whether for intellect or will or action. 3 

Our attitude towards God will be determined by the same appre 
ciation of what He is to us and what we are to Him, of what He has 
ordained and under what penalties. We are creatures, which is to say 

1 Cf. S. AUG., Enarr. in Ps. cxxvii. 8-9. P.L., XXXVII., 1681-1683. 

a The Council of Sens recalled this fact when condemning Abelard s contrary error: 
MANSI, t. XXI. , col. 569. 

8 We may compare with this paragraph of the Rule what ST. AUGUSTINE wrote when 
expounding the seven degrees that lead to wisdom: Ante omnia igitur opus est Dei timorc ^ 
converti ad cognoscendam ejus voluntatem, quid nobis appetendum fugiendumque pr<ecipiat 
Timor autem iste cogitationem de nostra mortalitate et defutura morte necesseest incutiatt 
et quasi clavatis carnibus omnes superbiee motus ligno crucis affigat (De Doctrina Christiana, 
1. II., c. vii. P.L., XXXIV., 39). 

106 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

that we hold all from God: body, soul, life, continued existence, the 
influences that act on us, guidance, the day of death in one word, 
all. Therefore God has over us an absolute right of ownership and 
authority. In all this there is nothing that need terrify us. It is the 
joy, the highest joy, of the creature, to recognize this divine sovereignty 
and to abandon itself to this absolute power. And God never does us 
more honour than when He disposes of us at His pleasure, without 
asking our leave, without appearing to suspect that there will be any 
hesitation in our will or reluctance in our flesh. So were treated 
Abraham, the prophets, St. John the Baptist, Our Lady, Our Lord 
Jesus Christ. The valiant soul knows what it means, for the cry of the 
crusader is of all time. Need we add that we too for our part have 
judged it well to extend and consecrate, by our profession, God s rights 
over us ? Bound to God as His creatures, we are also bound as souls 
redeemed by His blood, as sinners who have perhaps many times been 
pardoned and snatched from hell; we are bound again on the ground of 
our adoptive sonship, and because, since we remain weak, we are in 
continual need of God. Besides, He has defined His purpose in our 
regard, and how we should co-operate with Him; He has given 
us precepts and fortified them with His sanction. Eternal life is pre 
pared for them that fear Him; while for sinners, for those who neglect 
God and so make mockery of His infinite majesty, there is hell. 

We recognize here the great teaching of the Prologue. Here, too, 
our Holy Father insists that the intellectual appreciation from which 
springs the fear of God must be continual, present every moment, 
always awake : semper ponens, . . . semper sit memor, . . . animo suo semper 
revolvat . . . omni bora. He knows that we long have need of an effort 
thus to preserve contact with God : sibi ante oculos ponens ; faith alone 
makes us attentive to the presence of God and to supernatural realities, 
while it is fatally easy for us to be aware of ourselves and of the things of 
sense which surround us. Oblivionem omnino fugiat : inattentiveness is 
the great feeder of hell, and there is one whose whole interest it is to 
foster it in us. We may forget from inadvertence or distraction ; our souls 
may be carried away by the influence of the sensible. We may forget 
from carelessness, cowardice, sleepiness : " I have never done it, I am 
too old; I cannot . . ." We may forget of set purpose, and then we 
have deliberate inattention, the sin against the Holy Spirit, the deter 
mination so to shut our souls that light and repentance can find no entry. 
And what is the good of this ? When you forget thus, do you suppress 
your previous knowledge ? Do you suppress the consciousness which you 
had, before you began to pervert it, of the ultimate consequences of 
your unfaithfulness ? Do you suppress duty ? As though, to extinguish 
a debt, it were enough to refuse to think of it. Do you suppress God ? 
Do you really think that a petty ruse, some little internal diplomacy 
or wrongheadedness, is enough to get rid of God ? We may do what we 
like, but we shall not change reality. God is master, we are creatures ; 
and we have given our word. Not God Himself can change these facts. 

Of Humility 107 

There is heaven for those that fear Him, hell for those that despise Him; 
and when life is finished the time of probation is over. God would be 
a mockery, a sort of guy whom we might buffet and abuse indefinitely 
and with impunity, if He took no thought for the commands He has 
given, and if souls did not bear their responsibility and their burden 
before Him. 

Et custodiens se (and keeping himself) : our Holy Father now considers 
the consequences of the fear of God in respect of practical fidelity. 
Assiduous meditation on the will of God, His rewards and His punish 
ments, will encourage the monk to watchfulness. Every moment, and 
especially at times of temptation, which perhaps, occur periodically, he 
will be on his guard. Sad experience of his falls, and his daily examina 
tion of conscience, will reveal to him his weak points. He must abstain 
from sin and vice that is, from every fault, whether habitual or not; 
and he must eliminate along with the fault the evil tendency which is 
its germ. St. Benedict enumerates the principal instruments of sin: 
thought, speech, eyes, hands, feet. And these various faculties, which 
serve as the material means of sin, are summed up in the will: vel 
voluntatis -pro-price. But not only completed and external faults demand 
vigilance and resolution; we must be quick to cut off the desires of the 
flesh themselves, as soon as they begin to appear. The expression 
desideria carnis, with St. Benedict as with St. Paul, designates all the 
desires of the selfish life, of the life before baptism and profession, the 
sum of all tendencies which do not come from God or lead to Him. 
The flesh here signifies man in continual conflict with that Spirit, 
which realizes our divine sonship by its influence and its presence. 

^Estimet se homo de caelis a Deo Let him consider that he is always 

semper respici omni hora, et facta sua beheld from heaven by God, and that 

in omni loco ab aspectu Divinitatis his actions are everywhere seen by the 

videri, et ab Angelis omni hora Deo eye of the Divine Majesty, and are every 

nuntiari. hour reported to Him by His angels. 

Therefore true fear of God is made up of knowledge and practical 
fidelity. This lesson seemed so important to our Holy Father that he 
takes it up again point by point, thereby giving a disproportionate space 
to the study of the first degree of humility. So we have again this 
general principle that we must be conscious of God s abiding presence. 
Up to this point, it would seem, St. Benedict has only spoken of the look 
we cast on Him, a look which suffers interruption, for it is characteristic 
of created beings not to exercise their powers at every instant. But 
God is pure act. His name is " the living and seeing God." The 
glance of His eye reaches even to the abyss ; at all times and everywhere 
things are naked to His sight. When St. Benedict, with Holy Scripture, 
declares that God looks upon us from on high, as from an observatory, 
this means, not only that God is well placed so as to lose nothing of our 
doings, but also that He views us from the depths of the sanctuary of our 
souls. For God has in fact no other habitation than Himself and us, 
though He be present everywhere because of His universal activity. 

io8 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

So " from heaven " does not imply remoteness, but on the contrary 
the most complete intimacy; not separation but real union; it is not 
from outside but from within that God informs Himself continually 
of our life : and it is there, within our souls, that our look should seek to 
encounter His. 1 

We are never alone, God sees us always; and His angels, adds St. 
Benedict, apprise Him ceaselessly of our deeds. It would seem then 
that our Holy Father has not completely discarded the literal meaning 
of Jacob s ladder. No one will imagine that the angels convey informa 
tion necessary to adequate knowledge. God employs these messengers 
out of His abundance, not out of His need. He associates them with 
the working of His providence, so that all may be accomplished in a 
regular hierarchical fashion; so that subjects too may become chiefs 
and kings; so that they may have the joy of co-operating in the building 
of the Church, the object of their eternal admiration (Eph. iii. 10; 
Heb. i. 14) ; so that from now onwards those who already possess eternity 
and those who still journey towards it may be united in a vast asso 
ciation of charity, zeal, and affection : " With whom we shall share the 
holy and most sweet city of God itself." 2 

Demonstrat nobis hoc Propheta, This the prophet tells us, when he 

cum in cogitationibus nostris ita Deum shows how God is ever present to our 

semper praesentem ostendit, dicens: thoughts, saying :" God searcheth the 

Scrutans corda et renes Deus. Et item: heart and the reins." And again: 

Dominus novit cogitationes hominum, " The Lord knoweth the thoughts of 

quoniam vanes sunt. Et item dicit: men, that they are vain." And he 

Intellexisti cogitationes me as a longe; also says: "Thou hast understood my 

et: Quia cogitatio hominis confitebitur thoughts afar off "; and " The thought 

tibi. Nam ut sollicitus sit circa cogita- of man shall confess to thee." In 

tiones perversas, dicat semper humilis order, therefore, that he may be on 

f rater in corde suo: Tune ero immacula- his guard against evil thoughts, let the 

tus cor am eo, si observavero me ab iniqui- humble brother say ever in his heart; 

tate mea. " Then shall I be unspotted before 

him, if I shall have kept me from mine 


After having recalled the directive principle of our moral life, 
St. Benedict shows what practical influence the fear of God ought to 
have on our actions, developing the paragraph Et custodiens se. . . . 
Leaving on one side the purely external act, which of itself has no moral 
character, our Holy Father deals successively with thought, manifes 
tations of self-will, and desires. And it is not a mere care for method, 
the desire to adjust his didactic exposition to the laws of psychology, 
which led our Holy Father to speak first of intellect, and then of will, 
and finally of desire: we see that his aim is to form his monks from 
within. We may notice, too, that all the observations of St. Benedict 
are deduced from the words of Holy Scripture, acquiring thus a divine 

1 Cf. S. AUG., Injoannis Evang., tract. CXI., 3. P.L., XXXV., 1928. 
1 S. AUG., De Civitate Dei, 1. XXII., c. xxix. P.L., XLL, 797. 

Of Humility 109 

God is the witness of all our thoughts. His glance, according to 
the seventh psalm (verse 10), " probes the reins and the heart." And 
again: " The Lord knoweth the thoughts of men, that they are vain " 
(Ps. xciii. n). Likewise: "Thou hast understood my thoughts afar 
off " (Ps. cxxxviii. 3), and " The thought of man shall surely confess 
to thee " (Ps. Ixxv. n); thoughts which are mysterious to all lose their 
mystery at once to God. So the first degree of humility will consist in 
the monk 1 guarding himself from evil thoughts. And, to keep up his 
vigilance, he should voluntarily murmur in his heart the twenty-fourth 
verse of the seventeenth psalm, which speaks of the glance of God, of 
the purity that it demands, and of the method which assures this perfect 
cleanliness. " Then shall I be without spot in thy eyes, if I guard 
against my evil thoughts, against that which is the root of evil in me." 
For sin begins in thought and not in sense, in a deliberate look at the 
forbidden object, and not in a mere sight which is suddenly presented 
to us, or in a caprice of memory. There is no formal sin but in the will, 
and evil thoughts only exist because of perversities of will. St. Benedict 
devotes a moment to these last. 

Vohmtatem vero propriam ita fa- We are, indeed, forbidden to do 

cere prohibemur, cum dicit nobis our own will by Scripture, which says 

Scrip tura: Et a voluntatibus tuis aver- to us: "Turn away from thine own 

tere. Et item rogamus Deum in will." And so too we beg of God in 

oratione, ut fiat illius voluntas in nobis. prayer that His will may be done in us. 

Docemur ergo merito nostram non Rightly therefore are we taught not 

facere voluntatem, cum cavemus illud to do our own will, if we take heed to 

quod dicit sancta Scrip tura: Sunt vice the warning of Scripture: "There are 

qua videntur hominibus recta, quarum ways which to men seem right, but the 

-finis usque ad -profundum inferni demergit. ends thereof lead to the depths of 

Et cum item cavemus illud quod deneg- hell"; or, again, when we tremble 

ligentibus dictum est: Corrupti sunt, et at what is said of the careless: "They 

abominabiles facti sunt in voluptatibus are corrupt and have become abomin- 

suis. able in their pleasures." 

Of the two antagonistic wills, man s will and God s will, which is 
to prevail ? Certainly God s, if we think of His omnipresence, His 
rights, His threats, and His promises. We are not bidden: " Act always 
against your own will," for such a behest would savour of Jansenism; 
but rather, " Beware of your personal and isolated will, separate yourself 
from all forms of your own will: for such is the formal command of the 
Scripture" (Ecclus. xviii. 30). And every time that we recite the Lord s 
Prayer, we beg God that His will may be fulfilled in us and fulfilled by 
us. Hence our life will show men the sincerity of our prayer. 

If we wish to learn not to pursue the exercise of our own will, we 
must listen with holy fear to what Scripture says further : there are ways, 
practical habits, which seem to men right and fair, but the end of them 

1 We should, however, with all the manuscripts and the most ancient commentators, 
read utilis instead of humilis : a faithful brother, useful to his master; St. Benedict says 
similarly a little farther on, with Ps. Hi. 4: . . . et inutilesfactos. 

no Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

engulfs us in the depths of hell (Prov. xvi. 25, xiv. 12). Our Holy 
Father once more warns us of the great danger of delusion, child of 
evil passion. Every passion is an adjustment of the being on a certain 
axis. When this adjustment is violent and resolute, it becomes the 
normal state and takes the place of conscience. Then that is good 
which is suitable, adapted, and favourable to it. We call this the good; 
and God Himself must speak according to it, for man is not ashamed to 
vex and bend and torture the words of Scripture, and he dares to seek 
in an alleged providential course of events the justification of his system 
and his pretended mission. But responsibility remains, even in delusion, 
when one was conscious of evil at the start and thereafter at certain lucid 
intervals ; though it is not impossible that the sum of evil and suffering 
that is in the world does not come from malice alone, and that responsi 
bility is diminished by delusion. For were this not so, would not the 
thing terrify us ? If the good undergo trial, and if the part played by 
goodness in the kingdom of God is thereby diminished, this is not always 
the effect of pure wickedness, for blindness has its share in it. But it is 
possible that souls, which benefit by this sorry privilege of unconscious 
ness, expiate their misdeeds in proportion to the permanence of the 
consequences, and that the chastisement perseveres until the complete 
elimination from historical reality and the complex of things of all the 
disorder caused by delusion. 

Besides the self-will of the proud man, which is shut up as it were in 
a strong castle and canonizes all his decisions, one meets the self-will of 
the man who is sluggish and cowardly, who refuses to react against 
himself, negligentibus. Often the two tendencies unite and support 
each other. Anything may happen then and very quickly. Thus is 
reached the wretched state described by the Rule and by the thirteenth 
psalm (verse i). But perhaps our Holy Father here wished to indicate 
with a rapid stroke, by the side of culpable delusion, that other perverse 
state which is known as formal negligence and contempt for all that is 
most sacred. " The wicked man, when he is come into the depth of 
sins, contemneth: but ignominy and reproach follow him" (Prov.xviii. 3). 
Such dispositions may now and then appear in monasteries and reach 
their hateful climax. 2 

In desideriis vero carnis nobis Deum And in regard to the desires of the 

credamus esse praesentem semper, cum flesh, we must believe that God is 

dicit Propheta Domino: Domine, ante always present to us, as the prophet 

te est omne desiderium meum. Caven- says to the Lord: "O Lord, all my desire 

1 As D. BUTLER remarks, St. Benedict cites a version other than the Vulgate; the 
expression demergit is a reminiscence of ST. MATTH. xviii. 6. 

2 ST. AUGUSTINE came to recognize this fact, and bade his people not to be scanda 
lized. Simpliciter fateor caritati vestrce coram Domino Deo nostro, qui testis est super 
animam meam, ex quo Deo servire ccepi : quomodo difficile sum expertus meliores quam 
qui in monasteriis profecerunt ; ita non sum expertus pejores quam qui in monasteriis 
ceciderunt. . . . Quapropter etsi contristamur de aliquibus purgamentis, consolamur 
tamen etiam de pluribus ornamentis. Nolite ergo propter amurcam qua oculi vestri offen- 
duntur, torcularia detestari, unde apotbecce dominica fructu olei luminosioris implentur 
(Eptst. LXXVIII., 9. P.L., XXXIIL, 272). 

Of Humility 1 1 1 

dum ergo ideo malum desiderium, quia is before thee." Let us be on our 
mors secus introitum delectationis guard then against evil desires, since 
posita est. Unde Scriptura praecepit, death has its seat close to the entrance 
dicens: Post concupiscentias tuas non eas. of delight; wherefore the Scripture 

commands us, saying: " Go not after 
thy concupiscences." 

Internal activity consists of thought and will; but St. Benedict is 
aware that, besides and beyond these two elements, there is a third which 
darkens the intellect and entraps, debases, and imprisons the will. 
Fleshly desire is that secret and base concupiscence, that instinct of 
sense which drives us towards persons or things, not because they are 
good but because they please us. Again, the conviction of the presence 
of God will introduce order among these stormy and subversive desires. 
As the prophet David said: "O Lord, all my desire is before thee " 
(Ps. xxxvii. 10). 

To this lofty motive, proceeding from chanty, our Holy Father adds 
another, less disinterested, but effective and within the reach of every 
soul. We should dread evil desires, because, in spite of their seeming 
sweetness and the pleasure we find in them, they are poison and some 
times deadly poison. Death is installed, so to speak, close to the 
entrance of evil delight: and death too often enters on the heels of 
delight. Therefore does Scripture bid us not to let ourselves be dragged 
along by our concupiscences and drawn in their train (Ecclus. xviii. 30) : 
for they may lead us to perdition. After opening out this vista, our 
Holy Father now proceeds to summarize and conclude the whole teach 
ing of the first degree of humility. 

Ergo si oculi Domini speculantur Since, therefore, the eyes of the 
bonos et malos, et Dominus de ceslo Lord behold good and evil; and the 
semper respicit super filios hominum, ut Lord is ever looking down from heaven 
videat si est intelligent, aut requirens upon the children of men, to see who 
Deum; et ab Angelis nobis deputatis has understanding or is seeking God; 
quotidie die noctuque Domino factori and since the works of our hands are 
nostro et Creatori omnium Deo opera reported to Him, our Maker and 
nostra nuntiantur; cavendum est ergo Creator, day and night by the angels 
omni hora, fratres, sicut in Psalmo dicit appointed to watch over us; we must 
Propheta; ne nos declinantes in malum, be always on the watch, brethren, lest, 
et inutiles factos, aliqua hora aspiciat as the prophet says in the psalm, God 
Deus, et parcendo nobis in hoc tempore should see us at any time declining 
(quia pius est, et expectat nos converti to evil and become unprofitable; and 
in melius), ne dicat nobis in futuro: lest, though He spare us now, because 
Hcec fecisti, et tacui. He is merciful and expects our conver 

sion, He should say to us hereafter: 
" These things thou didst and I held 
my peace." 

St. Benedict is content to reiterate, under the form of an exhortation 
addressed to all and in the same key as the Prologue, the points which 
have been developed in this exposition. The eyes of the Lord are upon 
the good and the wicked; unceasingly from the height of heaven He 
looks upon the children of men, to discover whether there be among 
them an intelligent servant and one who seeks Him (Ps. xiii. 2); our 

1 1 2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

guardian angels give an account to the Lord that made us of all our 
deeds every day, by night as well as by day. 1 So there is reason every 
moment to fear, my brethren, according to the warning of the prophet 
in the fifty-second psalm, that if we fall into evil and become unprofitable 
God is at that same moment watching us. He might punish us on the 
spot. Perhaps He will spare us in this life, for He is good and awaits 
our return to better dispositions; so at least we must fear lest He say to 
us in the next life: " These things thou didst and I held my peace ; 
but now I am going to speak " (Ps. xlix. 21). This sentence nullifies the 
tacit objection which the sinner raises against the justice of God: " I 
have sinned, and what harm hath befallen me ?" (Ecclus. v. 4). If God 
does not punish at once, it is because He would give the soul time to 
return to Him. There is no doubt, also, that it is in order to save the 
free and filial character of virtue; for virtue would easily become a 
bargain, and fidelity a vulgar piece of smart calculation, if the punish 
ment followed immediately on the fault or if the good deed were at 
once crowned with its reward. 

Secundus humilitatis gradus est, si The second degree of humility is 

propriam quis non amans voluntatem that a man love not his own will, nor 

desideria sua non delectetur implere ; delight in gratifying his own desires; 

sed vocem illam Domini factis imitetur but carry out in his deeds that saying 

dicentis: Non veni facere voluntatem of the Lord: " I came not to do mine 

meam, sed ejus qui misit me. Item dicit own will, but the will of him who 

Scriptura: Voluntas [babet pcenam, et sent me." And again Scripture says: 

necessitas parit coronam. " Self-will hath punishment, but 

necessity wins a crown." 

We remember, perhaps, that in Cassian the fear of God does not 
constitute a special degree, but is presented as in a sense the common 
basis of all the degrees of humility. At bottom St. Benedict s doctrine 
is the same. We should notice that henceforth he assigns no new motive 
for humility, but confines himself to indicating the methods and authen 
tic forms through which humility should manifest itself. He too has 
spoken, primarily and at considerable length, of the fear of God; but, 
without setting this on one side, as did Cassian, he describes at the same 
time the negative consequences which it will have in our life as a whole. 
So that, in reality, abstention from the selfish actions which spring from 
our own will is the first degree of humility, with St. Benedict as with 
Cassian. The subsequent degrees describe the positive results of 
spiritual fear viz., to do the will of God instead of one s own will 
(the second degree : Cassian did not distinguish it from the first) ; to do 
the will even of men when they hold God s place (the third degree) ; 
to do the will of God and superiors in heroic circumstances (the fourth 
degree), etc. 

Therefore the second degree of humility is the realization in our 

1 The manuscripts have not got the words: et creatori omnium Deo, and the chief 
witnesses to the Carlo vingian and Cassinese traditions read: Domino factorum nostrorum 
opera nuntiantur. 

Of Humility 1 1 3 

conduct of that which Our Lord said of Himself: " I have come not 
to do mine own will, but the will of him who sent me " (John vi. 38). 1 
Instead of loving our own will, of taking joy in doing what we like and 
what our desires suggest, we shall imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ. The 
divine will of Our Saviour was wholly united with the will of His 
Father, and the same was true of His human will. But He had, as we 
have, an instinctive and indeliberate will, a natural will, a principle of 
interior reaction which impelled Him to choose certain things and avoid 
others. Now this will also bowed down before the will of His Father: 
" The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it ? " 
(John xviii. n). Yet this was the chalice of which He had said shortly 
before : " Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me." Truly 
he was a man and no beautiful statue; He felt human repugnance with 
a unique depth and an exquisite sensibility, and therefore He can be 
put before us as a model. 

St. Benedict adds that our own spiritual interest urges us to sub 
mission. This little phrase is the crux of commentators. In the 
first place, should we read voluptas or voluntas ? Since the context 
deals with self-will, it would seem that voluntas is the true reading; 
this conclusion is confirmed if we appreciate the antithesis to necessitas ; 
and some manuscripts have this reading. Still the reading of the 
best manuscripts, and the one reproduced in the oldest commentators, 
is voluptas. This expression is in no way unexpected, for it is supported 
very naturally by the words desideria sua non delectetur implere (nor 
delight in gratifying his own desires) ; and the antithesis remains in some 
manner, for, according to St. Benedict s thought, will is here equivalent 
to pleasure, and at least the words sound much the same. But to what 
passage of Scripture does St. Benedict refer ? The sentence is not to 
be found in the Bible. St. Benedict, so most commentators say, quotes 
from memory and gives the sense and not the words, as the writers of the 
New Testament and the Fathers have sometimes done. But then we 
should be able to produce a text with some likeness to our Holy Father s 
quotation, which is clean-cut and precise. Must we refer it to some 
lost text ? That is a sort of hypothesis to which we should rarely have 
recourse. Can our Holy Father s memory have been a little at fault ? 
Commentators have shrunk from this solution. Again, it is hard to 
suppose that he is quoting a proverb, since he refers expressly to Scripture. 
Some explain by saying that Scripture does not designate the sacred 
books exclusively; for does not the exposition of the eleventh degree 
of humility close with a non-scriptural quotation introduced by the 
formula scriptum est (it is written) ? We might answer that this formula 
is much less precise than the word " Scripture." 

Yet it may be a fragment of ecclesiastical literature. The Bollandists 

1 Quod, utique qui implere vult, sine dubio proprias sibi amputat voluntates, secundum 
imitationem ipsius Domini dicentis : Descendi de ccelo non utfaciam voluntatem meani, sed 
voluntatem ejus qui misit me Patris (S. BASIL., Re?, contr.. xii.)- See also CASS., Conlat., 
XXIV., xxvi. 


1 1 4 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

have reproduced, from manuscripts and Mombricius, the Acts of 
SS. Agape, Chionia, and Irene, which are inserted in those of SS. Chry- 
sogonus and Anastasia. This text, which they give as of great antiquity, 
is (happily for our hypothesis) different from that of Simeon Meta- 
phrastes (tenth century). In it we read : " Sisinnius said : Are they not 
then polluted who have tasted of the blood of sacrifices ? Irene replied : 
Not only are they not polluted, but they are even crowned: for pleasure 
hath punishment, but necessity wins (parat) a crown " (Mombricius 
has parit). 1 The authenticity of these Acts is contested by Ruinart; 
but they may nevertheless be anterior to our Holy Father. Have we 
perhaps a more certain source in St. Optatus of Milevis, who writes: 
" Self-will hath punishment, necessity pardon " ? 2 It is possible; but 
the two formulas are not identical and still less the ideas. St. Optatus s 
meaning is that those deserve full chastisement who are in full possession 
of their freedom, while responsibility and therefore chastisement are less 
where there has been constraint. St. Benedict s meaning is that self- 
will incurs punishment, while necessity that is, not an external and 
perverse constraint which leads us to evil, but a wise constraint which 
we put upon ourselves for the doing of good merits a crown. If the 
borrowing from St. Optatus were established, we should have to go 
back to the hypothesis of a proverbial formula adapting itself to cir 

Tertius humilitatis gradus est, ut The third degree of humility is 
quis pro Dei amore omni obedientia se that a man for the love of God submit 
subdat majori, imitans Dominum de himself to his superior in all obedience; 
quo dicit Apostolus: Factus obediens imitating the Lord, of whom the 
usque ad mortem. apostle saith: " He was made obedient 

even unto death." 

Obedience again and always obedience; but these various degrees 
represent an advance, though they imply one another and are in germ 
contained in one another. To fulfil the will of God is comparatively 
easy; for He is Himself, His laws have a universal character and contain 
their own justification, and then He is invisible: major ex longinquo 
reverentia (distance increases reverence). But God requires us to submit 
our wills to the wills of other men, and that continuously and till death, 
without protest or any reservation: "in all obedience"; "to his 
superior" i.e., in general; and St. Benedict even adds later: "That 
the brethren be obedient to one another." 

A little phrase, inserted in the precept, gives us its deep meaning 
and reassures us: it is "for the love of God" that we thus submit 
ourselves; our activity is always directed to God. When we obey for 
love, when our souls are raised aloft, then all becomes easy for us; 
our love invites sacrifice and every day it grows by reason of sacrifice 

1 ActaSS.j April., t.I.,p. 250. 

2 De Schism. Donat., 1. VII., post caput vii. P.L., XL, 1098. This passage has 
been restored to its place in chap. i. of the same book VII., in the edition of the 
Vienna Corpus, t. XXVL, p. 160. 

Of Humility 1 1 5 

accepted. This third degree of humility is especially Christian in that 
it requires us to imitate Our Lord, of whom St. Paul says that " He 
was made obedient even unto death " (Phil. ii. 8). 1 From Bethlehem 
to Calvary, and after, in the Holy Eucharist, the life of Our Lord has 
been nothing but obedience to creatures for love of His heavenly Father. 
He has not set any limits to this entire and glad giving of Himself, and 
He died to consummate it. If we are of the kin of Our Lord, if we are 
anxious to realize the meaning of Redemption, we shall desire no other 
method than His. 

Quartus humilitatis gradus est, si The fourth degree of humility is 

in ipsa obedientia duris et contrariis that if in this very obedience hard and 

rebus, vel etiam quibuslibet irrogatis contrary things, nay even injuries, are 

injuriis, tacita conscientia patientiam done to him, he should embrace them 

amplectatur, et sustinens non lassescat, patiently with silent consciousness, and 

vel discedat, dicente Scriptura: Qui not grow weary or give in, as the 

perseveraverit usque in finem, hie salvus Scripture says: "He that shall perse- 

erit. Item : Confortetur cor tuum, et vere to the end shall be saved." And 

sustine Dominum. again: " Let thy heart take courage 

and wait thou for the Lord." 

The fourth degree of humility is heroic obedience, and by heroic 
we do not mean optional. The subject here is true monastic obedience, 
and every soul that is anxious to be faithful will often have occasion to 
use this blessed page, rich in experience and in saintliness, wherein our 
Holy Father develops a part of the monastic programme which was 
sketched at the very end of the Prologue: " we may by patience share 
in the sufferings of Christ." 

Obedience may meet with objective difficulties: what is commanded 
may be hard, repugnant, even impossible, as St. Benedict says later. 
Or difficulties may come from the temper, or erratic ways, or want of 
tact, of those who command; they may treat us in an insulting way, or 
reproach us slightingly. Authority is a big subject: we may consider 
it as an element of unity, conservation, and happiness, and as a necessary 
element; but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that it is a dangerous 
instrument in the hands of a man. Those on whom the yoke presses 
heavily sometimes find it more intolerable than that anarchy which they 
dread. Lastly, such suffering always contains an imaginary element 
which aggravates the real grievance. Combine these three: the diffi 
culty of the object, the difficulty that comes from the authority, the 
difficulties which we make for ourselves, and the result may be too 
much for our nature, which at length is stifled and exasperated. 
There are some who cultivate this frenzy, who lose their heads in it, 
and from it draw the germ of resolutions which upset and dishonour 
their whole life. Let four words of the Holy Rule, words of an incom 
parable precision, define the attitude of the truly humble monk. 

1 Usque ad quern modum obaudire oportet eum, qui placendi Deo implere regulam cupit ? 
Apostolus ostendit, proponent nobis obedientiam Domini : Qui factus est, inquit, obedient 
usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis (S. BASIL., Reg contr., Ixv.). 

1 1 6 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Tacita (silent). We must, at such times, know how to be silent, 
and that completely. To check the tongue or the pen is to keep one s 
strength whole, while if a man abandon himself to his words or anger, 
he is lost. It will be objected that one must complain, that suffering 
must be let breathe. No, says St. Benedict, be silent. And so as to 
have naught to say externally, make your interior thought be silent also : 
tacita conscientia (with silent consciousness). It is not enough for 
humility and obedience to be dumb, yet to indulge in concentrated, 
and sometimes apparent, anger. We must avoid secret plainings, inner 
protestations, endless recalling of the past, angry reminiscence. 
There are passages in our life which it is bad enough to have known once; 
why should we wish, by incessantly returning to them in thought, to 
make them eternal ? This is to act like the child who has a small cut 
and inflames it by constantly touching it. Would that such re 
miniscences tended to stimulate our courage, penitence, or charity ! 
Then all would be well. But the suffering which we cause ourselves, 
which comes from our persistent reawakening of some secret sorrow, 
is not wholesome. So we should let fall into darkness, oblivion, and 
nothingness all that which tends only to trouble our peace. We have 
an opportunity of exercising patience, which, as St. James says, is the 
work of perfection: " Patience hath a perfect work," and its work is to 
maintain in us, despite all, the order of reason and faith. Let 
us take our courage in both hands; let us grasp this blessed patience so 
tightly and so strongly that nothing in the world shall be able to separate 
us from it : -patientiam amplectatur. 

This is not the time for groaning, for self-justification, for dispute. 
We should not have been saved if Our Lord had declined to suffer. It 
is the time for bending our shoulders and carrying the cross, for carrying 
all that God wills and so long as He wishes, without growing weary or 
lagging on the road. " Son, when thou comest to the service of God, 
stand in justice and in fear: and prepare thy soul for temptation. . . . 
Wait on God with patience: join thyself to God and endure, that thy 
life may be increased in the latter end " (Ecclus. ii. I and 3). As we 
said in expounding the Prologue, there is no spiritual future for any but 
those who can thus hold their ground. When we promise ourselves 
to stand firm and to wait till the storm is past, then we develop great 
powers of resistance. Besides, all suffering has an end. It will blossom 
in glory and salvation, says Scripture; but only on condition that we 
persevere to this end (Matt. xxiv. 13). Be brave, it says again, and 
endure the Lord (Ps. xxvi. 14). Endure the Lord: true words, because 
your trial comes from His Providence, He helps you to endure, and the 
trial has no other end than to lead you to Him : our Holy Father at once 
proceeds to remind us of this. 

Et ostendens fidelem pro Domino And showing how the faithful man 

universa etiam contraria sustinere ought to bear all things, however 

debere, dicit ex persona suff erentium : contrary, for the Lord, it says in the 

Procter te morte afficimur iota die; person of the afflicted: " For thee we 

Of Humility 1 1 7 

eestimati sumus sicut ovcs occisionis. suffer death all the day long; we are 
Et securi de spe retributionis divinae, esteemed as sheep for the slaughter." 
subsequuntur gaudentes, et dicentes: And secure in their hope 6f the divine 
Sed in bis omnibus super amus propter reward, they go on with joy, saying: 
eum qui dilexit nos. Et item alio loco " But in all these things we overcome, 
Scriptura: Probasti nos, inquit, Deus, through him who hath loved us." 
igne nos examinasti, sicut igne examinatur And so in another place Scripture 
argentum; induxisti nos in laqueum; says: "Thou hast proved us, O God; 
posuisti tribulationes in dorso nostro. thou hast tried us as silver is tried by 

fire; thou hast led us into the snare, 
and hast laid tribulation on our backs." 

St. Benedict returns to the two classes of difficulties which he had 
mentioned earlier in a more rapid fashion; first objective difficulties, 
and then, in the succeeding paragraph, those which come from persons. 
Sustine et abstine said the Stoics (Endure and abstain). Here we are 
only required to endure; but this patience is no longer acquiescence in 
an impersonal law, which we accept because it is universal and inevitable; 
it is acquiescence in a personal will, a service rendered to God, and, 
through our courage, a measure of collaboration in His work of redemp 
tion: pro Domino, propter te. With such a conviction we could go even 
to martyrdom. Et ostendens fidelem. ... To show how he who has 
faith, who is loyal to the Lord, should endure all things, including those 
most repugnant to nature, Scripture tells us that whose who suffer say: 
" For thy sake death threatens us all the day long, and we are treated 
as sheep destined for slaughter " (Ps. xliii. 22). 

In truth we achieve by these sufferings nothing less than the con 
quest of God. As our courage increases, so does our hope grow. We 
are sure of our God, sure of eternal compensation. Joy is ours, and 
love draws us onward, ourselves and our cross. How well now we 
understand the programme of our life and our death ! There is One 
who has loved me with an everlasting love, who has reached down to 
my wretchedness, who leads me with Him, gloriously, along His own 
blood-stained track, to the Father. Whatever is required of us, we 
shall succeed; nay, it would seem that we have already won, " through 
him that hath loved us" (Rom. viii. 37). We recognize everywhere 
the hand of God, and we kiss it affectionately, saying again with Holy 
Scripture: " Thou dost prove us, O God; thou dost put us to the trial 
of fire, even as men try silver; thou hast permitted us to fall unto the 
snare; thou hast laid tribulation on our shoulders " (Ps. Ixv. 10-11). 

Et ut ostendat sub priore debere And in order to show that we ought 

nos esse, subsequitur dicens: Imposuisti to be under a superior, it goes on to 

homines super capita nostra. Sed et say: "Thou hast placed men over our 

praeceptum Domini in adversis et heads." Moreover, fulfilling the pre- 

injuriis per ] patientiam adimplentes, cept of the Lord by patience in adver- 

percussi in maxillam, praebent et sities and injuries, they who are struck 

alteram, auferenti tunicam dimittunt on one cheek offer the other: to him 

et pallium, angariati milliario vadunt et who takes away their coat they leave 

duo, cum Paulo Apostolo falsos fratres also their cloak j and being forced tq 

1 1 8 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

sustinent et persecutionem, et maledi- walk one mile, they go two. With 
centes se benedicunt. Paul the Apostle, they bear with false 

brethren, and bless those that curse 


When the difficulty comes from those who command, we shall 
remember that we are cenobites and that we must go to God under the 
guidance of a superior. We should submit to this willingly and say with 
Holy Scripture: " Thou hast placed men over our heads " (Ps. Ixv. 12). 
What does it matter if men trouble us, if they wound us with words ? 
God permits it. Obedient men, who have reached this degree of valour, 
march under the will of God as soldiers under their flag, through all 
obstacles, not suffering themselves to be turned aside or disturbed by 
anything. And such is their perfection, that not only do they preserve 
docility towards their superior and joyous affection, but in their earnest 
ness they go beyond what is ordered; they ask in all sincerity and candour 
not to be spared ; they never assume the air of victims. And so they fulfil 
the counsel of perfection given by Our Lord in St. Matthew (v. 39 sq.) : 
Are you struck on the cheek ? Offer the other. Is your coat taken from 
you ? Let your cloak go too. The state officials requisition you for a 
mile ? Don t refuse to go two. 1 Plainly, and this the gospel text shows 
well, these metaphors need not be taken literally : Our Lord only wished 
to describe the spontaneity and generosity of Christian justice, as con 
trasted with the justice of the Pharisees. Our Holy Father follows this 
up by adding that if real persecutions come to us, not now from superiors, 
but from false brethren, again we have nothing to do but endure, and, 
in company with the Apostle St. Paul, answer curses with a blessing 
(2 Cor. xi. 26; I Cor. iv. 12). We have a living commentary on this 
teaching in the history of our Holy Father himself, when his own monks 
and Florentius tried to poison him. 

With this fourth degree of humility is connected the celebrated 
question of " fictitious humiliations," which raised a lively controversy 
in the seventeenth century. Abbot de Ranee", adopting the extra 
ordinary practices of some Eastern monks, introduced among his monks 
the custom of imputing imaginary faults to exercise their virtue. The 
method appealed to the spirituality of the time. In 1616, Dom Philip 
Francois, " Prior of Saint-Airy, sometime Master of Novices of the 
Order of St. Benedict of the Congregation of Verdun," along with some 
good teaching which he gave in his Guide spirituelle tiree de la Rlgle de 
sainct Benoist pour conduire les novices selon V esprit de la mesme Rlgle" 
recommended that one should " impute to them some grave fault 
which they have not committed and punish them well for it." 2 In 1671 
William Le Roy, commendatory Abbot of Haute-Fontaine in Cham 
pagne, having gone to pass some time at La Trappe to prepare himself 
there for the reform of his monastery, was shocked by these methods of 
humiliation, which in his view injured truth, justice, and charity, and, 
after discussing the matter with de Ranee, formulated his objections in a 

1 Cf. CASS., Conlat., XVI., xxi.-xxiv. 2 P- 473. 

Of Humility 1 1 9 

manuscript Dissertation. De Ranee replied vigorously: a long letter 
addressed to the Bishop of Chalons accused Le Roy of having interpreted 
these fictions in a bad sense and of maintaining a view which would 
" destroy all the sanctity of the Thebaid." The controversy went on 
for some years without creating much stir; but in 1677 the Reply of 
de Ranee, of which he had given some copies to his friends, was printed 
without his knowledge. Naturally Le Roy talked of publishing his 
Dissertation; meanwhile he put in circulation an Elucidation of the Reply 
and asked the advice of Bossuet. The latter, in a letter of August 16, 
1677, urged his correspondent to let the matter rest and so secured the 
last word to his friend de Ranee. 1 

The Abbot of La Trappe expounded his theory of humiliations ia 
his work De la saintete et des devoirs de la vie monastique. 2 It was then 
that Mabillon entered the lists and respectfully submitted to de Ranee 
some Reflections (unpublished) on various points; he made his own the 
objections of M. Le Roy and for the same reasons. 3 But no one spoke 
so plainly as Dom Mege in his Commentaire sur la Regie (1687), wherein 
he criticized very fully these fictitious and outlandish humiliations, 
without however naming de Ranee. 4 The friends of the latter, and 
Bossuet among the first, 6 exerted themselves to such good purpose, that, 
after various vicissitudes, the Commentary of Dom Mege was forbidden 
for all the members of the Congregation of St. Maur in the Chapter of 
1689. That same year de Ranee published La Regie de saint Benoit nou- 
vellement traduite et expliquee selon son veritable esprit ; and on the last 
day of the year appeared the Commentary of Dom Martene, announced 
two years before to Bossuet by Pere Boistard, the General of the Con 
gregation of St. Maur, as " more correct " than that of Dom Mege. And 
it is true that, except in a few points, the polemical tone is absent ; a Mar 
tene even endeavours to justify historically a discreet use of humiliations. 
But for us the criticism of Dom Mege has lost none of its value. Not 
only is it no part of our custom to lie in order to prove the virtue of 
another, but we hold that superiors have no need of these factitious 
or violent methods to make sure of this virtue and cause its increase. 
In reality our Holy Father suggests absolutely nothing of the sort. 
And how easy it would become for monks, under this system of false 
imputations, to ignore all disagreeable observations, even when very- 
well justified, on the ground that the Abbot is only seeking to try their 

1 URBAIN et LEVESQUE, Correspondance de Bossuet^ t. II., pp. 35-46. 

2 Chap. xii. 

8 CJ. DUBOIS, Histoire de V Abbt de Rance^ 1. VII., chap. v. T. II., pp. 36^. 

* Pp. 241-242, 290-334. 

8 See the letters to de Ranee* of October 4 and November 1 1, 1687, and the notes of 
the editors URBAIN and LEVESQUE, op. cit., t. III., pp. 426-429, 444-447. Bossuet at once 
had D. Mege s book suppressed by the authorities. "... May it remain banished 
from all places where true regularity and piety are known," he wrote to Mme. de 
Beringhen, March 28, 1689 (t. IV., pp. 15-16). 

6 See BOSSUET S letter to de Ranee of January 2, 1690 (URBAIN et LEVESQUE, op. /., 
t. IV., pp. 50-52). 

120 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Quintus humilitatis gradus est, si The fifth degree of humility is to 

omnes cogitationes malas cordi suo hide from one s Abbot none of the 

advenientes, vel mala a se absconse evil thoughts that beset one s heart, 

commissa, per humilem confessionem nor the sins committed in secret, but 

Abbati non celaverit suo. Hortatur humbly to confess them. Concerning 

nos de hac re Scriptura, dicens: Revela which the Scripture exhorts us, saying: 

Domino viam tuam^ et S pera in eo. Et " Make known thy way unto the Lord, 

item dicit: Confitemini Domino, quoniam and hope in him." And again: 

bonus, quoniam in s&culum misericordia " Confess to the Lord, for he is good, 

ejus. Et item Propheta: Delictum for his mercy endureth for ever. * 

meum cognitum tibi fed, et injustitias So also the prophet says :" I have made 

meas non operui. Dixi, -pronuntiabo known to thee my offence, and mine 

adversum me injustitias meas Domino < 9 iniquities I have not hidden. I said, I 

et tu remisisti im^ietatem cordis mei. will confess against myself my iniquities 

to the Lord: and thou hast forgiven 
the wickedness of my heart." 

With the first four degrees the theory of humility is complete; we 
now know in what essentially consists the humility of the creature, the 
Christian, and the monk. What follows is only the application to certain 
circumstances in the monastic life of the principles already laid down. 
And a point worth noting we shall still for some time be occupied 
with internal elements; it would seem that the Rule makes a sort of 
proud claim to deal almost exclusively with such elements. To repeat, it 
is to the very sources of the moral life and to the depths where only God s 
eye can penetrate that we must carry our active efforts at correction; 
there is it that all should be regulated in the light of faith and in charity. 

This degree is not concerned with sacramental confession. St. 
Benedict rarely speaks to us of divine or ecclesiastical law, since he 
supposes it known already. Besides Abbots were not always priests, 
and so could not receive confession in ordine ad sacr amentum. What 
he speaks of here is a quite private affair, unofficial, a voluntary confiding 
of our wretchedness, what we know nowadays as " manifestation." 
Monastic tradition is unanimous in recommending this practice, for 
monks as well as for nuns. We have already quoted the wise words 
of the Institutions of Cassian, in speaking of the fifty-first instrument of 
good works; the tenth chapter of his second Conference might also be 
studied. St. Basil recurs frequently to that humble avowal of his 
secret faults which a monk should make, not, says he, to anyone at all, 
nor to one who pleases him, but to those who have the grace of state 
and proper capacity. 1 St. Benedict would like it to be to the Abbot 
himself; for it is only then that the procedure obtains its full effect. 
The Church, however, to prevent certain abuses, has reminded superiors 
that they have no right to exact manifestation of conscience. 

These manifestations, says our Holy Father, deal with two matters. 
First with " all the evil thoughts that beset one s heart." Let us 
understand this well. According to St. Gregory, the history of tempta 
tion comprises three moments: suggestion, pleasure, consent. There 

1 Reg. contr.j xxi., cxcix. } cc, 

Of Humility 1 2 1 

is no need to preserve and reveal to the Abbot what has been not even a 
suggestion, but only a lightning-like flash of thought ; nor what has not 
caused real pleasure, because our soul at any rate, if not our sensibility, 
has remained unmoved. In the vague disturbances and confused 
movements of thoughts, inclinations, and impressions which make up 
our secret life, there are elements which we must know how to neglect ; 
to attend to all is a weakness: Nescire qucedam magna -pars sapienticz 
(Not to know some things is a great part of wisdom). But evil thoughts 
which are really ours, thoughts which abide with us, tendencies to which 
we surrender ourselves, inveterate companions of our thinking, these 
are the things which deserve to be brought out into the light. If they 
remain hidden they gradually overrun the soul. Likewise we must 
disclose the " sins we may have committed in secret." 

The wholesomeness of this procedure is easily seen. All our external 
and public actions are controlled by regular authority, and we have 
a restraint also in human respect, propriety, and fear of ridicule; but 
our interior or hidden life is a thing apart, So St. Benedict provides 
this help to conscience and sends the monk to his Abbot. It is a practi 
cal application of the sentiment of the fear of God. Toothache is said 
to depart when one approaches the dentist s chair ; it may be, too, that the 
mere thought: " I shall have to tell this," will often be enough to guard 
us against ourselves. In this then we may find an abundant source of 
security. A tempter does not care to have witnesses of his procedure. 
So it is notorious, as Cassian had remarked, that the devil dreads nothing 
more than the filial freedom with which we open our whole soul to our 
Abbot, knowing that such frankness shelters us from his arts and defends 
us against his shafts. God Himself guards us in the person of our 
superior. And all the texts here adduced (Ps. xxxvi. 5, cv. I, 
xxxi. 5) regard the confidence given to the Abbot as given to Our 
Lord. They represent the avowal of our faults as a giving glory to 
God in its hopefulness and its praise of His mercy, as an infallible 
guarantee of His support and an assurance of pardon. 

The most real benefit of the procedure is contained in the pro 
cedure itself. Without doubt it will obtain forgiveness for us, without 
doubt some guidance and practical advice will be provided us, and we 
shall accept it with eyes closed, without discussion or reservation; but 
its true and essential efficaciousness lies elsewhere. It establishes us 
in simplicity and absolute loyalty, it creates a profound unity in our life, 
a conformity between the inward and the outward. Certain little 
secret deceptions cannot withstand the determination to keep our souls 
always as an open book, to have nothing therein but what God and our 
neighbour may read, and to speak as we shall speak at the judgement 
seat of God. The peace and joy of our lives as monks depend largely 
on our freedom with the Abbot and his freedom with us. 

Sextus humilitatis gradus est, si The sixth degree of humility is, 
omni vilitate vel extremitate contentus for a monk to be contented with the 
sit monachys, et ad omnia quse sibi ["meanest and worst of everything, and 

1 2 2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

injunguntur, velut operarium malum in all that is enjoined him to esteem 
et indignum se judicet, dicens cum himself a bad and worthless labourer, 
Propheta: Ad, nihilum redactus sum, et saying with the prophet: "I have 
nescivi: ut jumentum factus sum apud been brought to nothing, and I knew 
te, et ego semper tecum. it not: I am become as a beast before 

thee, yet I am always with thee." 

The sixth degree of humility consists in accepting interiorly all the 
conditions of the monastic life and never being particular. 1 The monk 
will take all with a good grace, whether it be poverty of dwelling or 
clothes or food : omni vilitate. He will not allow himself to be surprised 
or discouraged by the base and menial character of tasks that may be 
entrusted to him; he will not be ashamed of the position that may be 
assigned to him and will not die of chagrin because he is forgotten 
in the distribution of dignities or favours: vel extremitate. Duties of 
considerable moment may sometimes come his way; he will not be con 
ceited. Instead of being puffed up with his importance and regarding 
the trust committed to him as a tardy recognition of his capabilities, 
he will hold himself sincerely as an incapable workman, badly trained 
and predisposed of himself to all sorts of mistakes. Instead of promising 
himself to work wonders, he will put all his hope and strength in God 
alone; he will devote himself to every work that he is given, whatever 
it may be, with the same tranquil consciousness of his personal powerless- 
ness, saying with the prophet : " Behold me brought to what I am, to 
nothing; I know naught. I am as a beast of burden before thee, and 
I am always with thee," that I may rest on thee (Ps. Ixxii. 22-23). 

To be content with anything does not mean that we must not 
bother much about slovenliness, neglect, boorishness of manners, and 
a whole assemblage of habits which may easily be a source of annoyance 
to others. There are no fictitious humiliations; but difficulties should 
not be added to those which are of rule. Nor yet does our Holy Father 
intend to prescribe conventual squalor and rudeness, nor even to 
condemn in advance what has lately been called " holy luxury "; though 
Marte"ne, influenced by the principles of the early Cistercians and the 
Trappists, feels bound to deplore the sumptuous character of monastic 

Septimus humilitatis gradus est, si The seventh degree of humility is 
omnibus se inferiorem et viliorem, non that he should not only call himself 
solum sua lingua pronuntiet, sed etiam with his tongue lower and viler than 
intimo cordis credat affectu, humilians all, but also believe himself with inmost 
se, et dicens cum Propheta: Ego autem affection of heart to be so, humbling 
sum vermis, et non homo, opprobrium himself, and saying with the prophet : 
hominum, et abjectio plebis. Exaltatus " I am a worm and no man, the shame 
sum, et humiliates, et confusus. Et of men and the outcast of the people : 
item: Bonum mihi quod humiliasti me, I have been exalted, and cast down 
ut disc am m and at a tua. and confounded." And again: "It 

is good for me that thou hast humbled 
me, that I may learn thy command 

* Gj. S. BASIL., Reg. contr., xxii. 

Of Humility 123 

A monk s humble appreciation of himself is not confined to the 
circumstances mentioned in the preceding degree, for it is universal and 
of universal application. The seventh degree embodies an element of 
comparison, in which certain authors would like to see, not a simple 
application of humility, but its very essence. Humility, to St. Bernard, 
is the virtue " by which a man, through truest self-knowledge, grows 
vile in his own eyes " (qua homo, verissima sui agnitione, sibi ipsi vilescit). 1 
Wherein lies the comparison ? Must one believe himself inferior 
" to all things " ? It would surely be rather extreme to declare oneself 
inferior to beings who have not reason, to the devil, to the dust of the 
highway; moreover, it is hard to believe this, unless when we realize 
vividly, at certain times, how we abuse our power of turning from God, 
while irrational creatures obey Him without fail. One of the most 
characteristic marks of the saints is this eagerness to put themselves 
in the lowest place, to hold themselves cheap, to prefer themselves to 
none. In the most perfect characters, every grace of God but deepens 
in their eyes the abyss of their nothingness, and all the loving favours of 
Our Lord increase the conviction of their fundamental unworthiness. 
Can this be, as is sometimes said, " pious exaggeration," a fictitious and 
affected attitude ? It is undeniable that from one point of view we 
are all worth the same, since of ourselves we are worth nothing, and can 
do nothing but sin: " There is no sin that a man has committed, which 
another may not commit, except he be helped by God who made man." 
To this extent there is no difference between ourselves and others. 
To attain sincere and tried humility I shall not compare myself with 
my brethren, but I shall be attentive to my relation with God and to my 
worth in His sight. I know very little about my neighbour: if I see 
him do good, I should take edification therefrom ; if, on the other hand, 
he do evil, my ignorance of his real dispositions should plead in his 
favour: " No one is bad, until he is proved so." We never know to 
what degree he is culpable, nor what influence heredity, previous 
training, and environment have had on him; we know not what he has 
been and what he is in God s sight, nor for what God destines him. 
How easy it would have been at Calvary to regard the good thief as a 
lost soul, or St. Paul himself as a wild fanatic at the martyrdom of 
St. Stephen ! 2 But at least we know ourselves well. " I know not," 
said the Count de Maistre, " what passes in the heart of a rogue; but 
there is enough in the heart of an honest man to make him blush." 
If anyone had treated us as we have treated Our Lord, we should have 
had no difficulty in regarding him as the basest of men. Have we not 
lied enough to God ? Have we not betrayed Him enough ? And how 
many days of fidelity have succeeded our repentances ? An instant s 
reflection is enough to make us realize what we are and in what 
place we should put ourselves: inferior to all, more wretched than 

1 De Gradibus bumilitatis, c. i. P.L., CLXXXII., 942. 

2 Cf. S. AUG., Liber de diversis Ixxxiii quast., queest. Ixxi., J. P.L., XL., 82. Df 
sancta virginit., lii. P.L., ibid., 427. 

1 24 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

all, 1 under the feet of all: " I am a worm and no man, the shame of 
men and the outcast of the people " (Ps. xxi. 7). 

When he does not confine himself to mere verbal protestations, 
which are always easy, 2 but obeys a spontaneous and profound con 
viction, 3 then the monk shares in the humility of Him who, expiating 
all our misery in His own person, uttered on the cross the words of the 
prophet which we have just quoted. Then the soul recognizes, in the 
degradation to which it has fallen, the just punishment of its pride: 
" I raised myself up, and lo ! I am cast down and confounded " 
(Ps. Ixxxvii. 1 6). It understands all the spiritual profit of this humilia 
tion thus accepted: " It is good for me that thou hast humbled me, for 
thus I shall learn to obey thee " (Ps. cxviii. 71). 

Octavus humilitatis gradus eat, si The eighth degree of humility is, 
nihil agat monachus, nisi quod com- for a monk to do nothing except what 
munis monasterii regula, vel majorum is authorized by the common Rule of 
cohortantur exempla. the monastery, or the example of his 


A monk who practises the seventh degree of humility finds the 
observance of the eighth a matter of course. He remains quietly in his 
place, as an anonymous unit, one of many; he seeks no exceptions 
or privileges ; he does nothing that is out of the way or attracts notice, 
but only what is authorized by the common rule of the monastery and 
by the conduct according to rule of the seniors, by lawful custom. 4 
This is not an invitation to sloth or apathy, nor to a sort of stoicism, a 
lack of filial simplicity, which would leave the Abbot the task of finding 
out for himself our weakness and our needs ; our Holy Father only wishes 
to destroy every expression of self-will. We have by instinct a love of 
petty distinctions; it is only with some chagrin that we make up our 
minds to be ignored and lost in the crowd, especially if we were once 
honoured and exalted. We strive after originality, singularity, pose, 
effect. We would be personages and have our style, our own point of 
view, and our own manner of thought. All of which is a wretched revo 
cation of that sacrifice of ourselves which we accepted on the day of 
our profession. Moreover, this need of self-assertion manifests itself 
most often in trivial, almost insignificant, matters, wherein all a man s 
selfishness seems to take refuge. It may be a small point of pronuncia 
tion, a personal peculiarity in the common ceremonial, exceptions in the 
refectory. And this degenerates into a passion, whether open or 
concealed, and sometimes into revolt. It is great virtue and real 
spiritual eminence to conform oneself always to the customs of the 
monastery and that even in external practices of devotion : Ama nesciri 

1 Verba Seniorum : Vita Patrum, III., 206. ROSWEYD, p. 531. S. MACAR., 
Reg-, in- S. BASIL., Reg. contr.j Ixii. 

2 Cj. CASS., Conlat., XVIII., xi. 

3 The phrase is CASSIAN S, in the parallel passage; it is found also in Conlat.^ XXI V., 
xvi.; XII., xiii. 

4 CASS., Instil., V., xxiii.; Conlat., XVIII., iii.; II., x. : Nullatenus decifi j>oterit 

si non suo judicio, sed majorum vivit exemfilo, 

Of Humility 125 

et pro nihilo reputari (Love to be unknown and to be counted for 

Norms humilitatis gradus est, si The ninth degree of humility is 

linguam ad loquendum prohibeat that a monk refrain his tongue from 

monachus et taciturnitatem habens, speaking, keeping silence until a ques- 

usque ad interrogationem non loquatur, tion be asked him, as the Scripture 

monstrante Scrip tura quia in multi- shows: "In much talking thou shah 

loquio non effugietur peccatum; et quia not avoid sin": and, The talkative 

v ir linguosus non dirigetur super terram. man shall not be directed upon the 


In the eighth degree St. Benedict consented at last to speak of ex 
ternal works, and in that degree he has comprised our whole monastic 
activity. The three succeeding degrees, which might easily be united 
into one, deal with some more important details, with speech and 
certain concomitants of speech. A humble monk knows how to restrain 
his tongue, which is ever liable to misuse. He has the spirit of silence 
and a reverence for silence. In the presence of his superiors or his 
brethren he is wont, as it were, to await a summons 1 and a motive, before 
he speaks. Even in time of recreation one should observe moderation; 
yet conversation has its rights, and that is its hour. But would that we 
could speak only in time of recreation ! There are those who are 
constantly at high pressure and cannot contain themselves. It has 
become necessity and second nature. They always suppose the matter 
is urgent, be it an excellent joke, or some confidence that will not wait, 
or a genial notion which must immediately be shared with friends. 
And it is futile to talk of silence before such as these, for they always 
think the criticism is meant for others. Let us beware of condoning 
our talkativeness, on the ground that after all it is only an external 
matter; for, alas! this external disposition is joined interiorly with a 
fund of pride, immortification, and spiritual dissipation. And we shall 
only succeed in correcting the secret enemy if we try to grapple with him 
in his visible manifestations. The result of this thoughtless stream of 
talk, as Scripture tells us, is unfailingly sin (Prov. x. 19); it means also 
loss of time and that irremediably scandal, and the slow destruction 
of our fraternal charity and spirit of obedience. The wordy man, the 
great talker, will never succeed, never find his way upon the earth: 
he will weary and offend both God and men (Ps. cxxxix. 12). 

Decimus humilitatis gradus est, si The tenth degree of humility is 
non sit facilis ac promptus in risu, quia that he be not easily moved and prompt 
scriptum est: Stultus in risu exaltat to laughter; because it is written: 
vocem suam. " The fool lifteth up his voice in 


St. Benedict has already warned us several times against buffoonery, 
gainst the " loud, resounding laugh." We are well aware that a pleasant 
wit is a virtue; children would certainly not have surrounded Our 

1 Usquequo servandum est silentium? usquequo interrogeris (Verba Seniorum : Vitee 
Patrum, VII., c. xxxii. ROSWEYD, p. 679). 

ia6 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Lord and sought His blessing, if He had not consented to smile and be 
agreeable. But the Holy Rule will not tolerate a habit of treating 
nothing seriously, of turning everything into jest. This infirmity of 
the mind is one of the most unpleasant traces of the spirit of the world. 
Even in the world it is irritating and in bad taste; it is considered the 
mark of a superficial mind and empty soul : " A fool lifteth up his voice 
in laughter " (Ecclus. xxi. 23). But for a monk it is incompatible with 
recollection and the sense of the presence of God. Moreover, it con 
tains a rich store of self-love, the desire for display, of passing as a man 
of parts, a " devil of a fellow." There is this danger too : all this foolish 
gaiety stirs up an impure sediment, a sort of dangerous bottom of 
coarseness ; reason and will fall partly into abeyance and we are thrown 
off our guard. And there is perhaps no loophole in a man s character 
through which temptation and evil suggestion get in more surely. 
Pere Surin, who knew the ways of the devil, speaks in his book on 
the nuns of Loudun of a possessed nun who owed the fits of possession 
to a sort of rude high spirits, to which she used to surrender herself: 
she did not get rid of the devil until she had corrected this excessive 

Undecimus humilitatis gradus est, The eleventh, degree of humility is 
si, cum loquitur monachus, leniter et that when a monk speaks he do so 
sine risu, humiliter et cum gravitate, gently and without laughter, humbly, 
vel pauca verba et rationabilia loquatur, gravely, with few and reasonable words, 
et non sit clamosus in voce; sicut scrip- and that he be not noisy in his speech, 
turn est: Sapiens verbis innotescit as it is written :" A wise man is known 
paucis. in a few words." 

St. Benedict has not prescribed absolute silence, but no one can fail 
to admire the number of precautions with which he has surrounded 
silence. In the ninth degree he asked us not to be too ready to speak; 
in the tenth, not to be too ready to laugh; he now describes the manner 
of the humble and well-instructed monk when he must make use of 
speech. He must do it gently, without laughter or jest, humbly, gravely, 
with few words and such as are reasonable, without shouting or noise, 1 
following the example of Our Lord, of whom St. Matthew (xii. 19) says 
(after Isaiah), " He shall not contend nor cry out: neither shall any man 
hear his voice in the streets." 

Instead of this text St. Benedict quotes another in which it is said 
that " the wise man is known in a few words." Though he says scriptum 
est (it is written), and we find an equivalent thought in several passages 
of the sacred books, notably in the tenth chapter of Ecclesiastes (verse 14), 
it is not from Holy Scripture that he has taken the verbal form of this 
maxim. As D. Hugh Menard observed in his time, this is the hundred 
and thirty-fourth of the sentences of Sextus. Rufinus translated this 
collection from Greek into Latin 2 and offered it to the sister of his friend 

1 C/. S. BASIL., Reg. contr., cxxx. 

2 See this translation in the Maxima Bibliotheca veterum Patrum of MARGARIN DE 
LA BIGNE, t. III., p. 335; and in MULLACH, Fragmenta Pbilosophorum greecorum, t. I., 
P- 523- 

Of Humility 127 

Apronianus as a precious " ring," worthy of being worn on the finger. 
Men say, said he, that its author was Sixtus, Bishop of Rome and martyr. 
St. Augustine at first accepted this attribution, but later, being better 
informed, changed his mind. As for St. Jerome, he several times 
denounced with indignation the audacity of Rufinus for daring to 
ascribe to St. Sixtus an entirely pagan work containing doctrinal errors. 
The Decree of Gelasius condemned it. In fact, there has, it would 
seem, been a confusion between St. Sixtus II. and a Pythagorean or 
Stoic philosopher of the same name. 1 However, an English critic, 
Conybeare, has quite recently endeavoured to prove that the Ring of 
Pope Xystus is the work of a philosopher, retouched by a Christian living 
before A.D. 150, who may have been Pope Sixtus I. 2 

Duodecimus humilitatis gradus est, The twelfth degree of humility 

si non solum corde monachus, sed etiam is that the monk, not only in his heart, 

ipso corpore humilitatem videntibus se but also in his very exterior, always 

semper indicet, id est, in opere, 3 in show his humility to all who see him : 

oratorio, in monasterio, in horto, in that is, in work, in the oratory, in the 

via, in agro vel ubicumque, sedens, monastery, in the garden, on the road, 

ambulans, vel stans, inclinato sit in the field, or wherever he may be, 

semper capite, defixis in terrain aspec- whether sitting, walking, or standing, 

tibus, reum se omni hora de peccatis with head always bent down, and eyes 

suis existimans, jam se tremendo Dei fixed on the earth ; that he ever think 

judicio praesentari existimet: dicens of the guilt of his sins, and imagine 

sibi in corde semper illud quod publica- himself already present before the 

nus ille evangelicus, fixis in terram terrible judgement seat of God, always 

oculis, dixit: Domine, non sum dignus saying in his heart what the publican 

ego peccator lev are oculos meos ad cesium, in the Gospel said with his eyes fixed 

Et item cum Propheta: Incurvatus et on the earth: "Lord, I a sinner am 

humiliatus sum usquequaque. not worthy to raise mine eyes to 

heaven. * And again, with the prophet: 
" I am bowed down and humbled on 
every side." 

For the last time let us remark the character of this antique spirit 
uality which takes a man interiorly and makes of spiritual renewal a 
spontaneous and living work, the normal development of divine forces 
produced in us by baptism and the other sacraments. If humility 
be really in the heart it will appear in the body also, and will regulate 
all its movements; it will be like a new temperament, a nature made 
in humility replacing the old. This external manifestation is a thing 
natural and necessary: it is the very consequence of our oneness of being. 
So we should be on our watch against regarding this twelfth degree as 
the least of all, on the pretext that it concerns only the body. Deep 
sentiments, whether great love, great sorrow, or lofty thought, have 
always a dominant and despotic character. They work a change first 

1 Cy. P.L., XXL, 40-42, 191-200. HARNACK, Die Ueberliejerung und der Bestand 
der altchristlichen Litteratur bis Eusebius, p. 765. 

2 The Ring oj PopeXystus t together with the Prologue ofRuJinus, now first rendered into 
English with an historical and critical commentary (London, 1910). 

3 The best supported reading is : in Opere Dei. 

128 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

in the centre of our soul: the soul becomes as it were collected to a 
point; it makes a clean sweep; all that is not in accordance with this 
deep sentiment is treated as non-existent, or as accidental and neg 
ligible. Then there is a change at the circumference: the passion 
resounds to the very confines of our nature, and concentrates all our 
activity in its minutest forms ; it wrecks our life or remakes it on its own 
plan. Man must perforce bear on him the trace of his vices; virtue, 
too, imprints its glorious stigmata on him, but less rapidly; for the more 
animal our impulses are, the more physical in their basis, the more 
readily do they stamp themselves on the sensibility and mould the body 
itself. Interior and exterior are conjoined, and we may sometimes 
prove it from the opposite direction; for deliberate external attitudes 
do partially modify the interior. 1 

When humility has laid hold of a soul, it embraces the whole man 
insensibly; it is like that Scripture unguent which begins with the head 
and then, little by little, makes its way to the fringe of the garment: 
" Like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the 
beard, the beard of Aaron, that ran down to the skirt of his garment " 
(Ps. cxxxii. 2). The humble monk, says St. Benedict, enumerating 
the chief circumstances of the day and the diverse positions of the body, 
is recognizable everywhere and always. He neither walks, nor sits, 
nor stands, in the manner of the world, least of all like the vain or frivo 
lous. His manner is not smug and conceited, he does not bully or rail, 
nor does he carry himself proudly and arrogantly. Habitually his 
head is gently bent, his gaze fixed on the ground. It has been remarked 
that the eyes of the saints, even when they are looking at some object, 
seem turned inwards, towards the hidden Beauty, so far and yet so near. 
Herein is a living lesson in humility: " that he always show his humility 
to all who see him." But there must be no stiffness or affectation. We 
need not think about the external effect of our humility, and still less 
must we aim at such effect, for to be anxious to edify by the display 
of virtue is always to run extreme risk of pride. 

The exposition of the twelfth degree of humility is rounded off with 
a doctrinal reassertion of the principle of huniility that is, the fear of 
God, implying our looking to Him and His looking on us, eternal life being 
the issue. For Our Lord s look is not a Platonic gaze, a sort of infinite 
mirror in which created things are merely reflected; it is already a judge 
ment. Undoubtedly this judgement will not be fully known to us until 
death has fixed its irrevocable seal upon our deeds ; but we must never 
forget that God is our judge even here and now. He is our judge not 
only because He sees us and weighs us and registers our deserts, but also 
because He commences even now to execute sentence. When prayer is 
tasteless, reading ineffective, feast-days without savour, the truths of faith 
powerless to rouse, life without joy, grace attenuated, what is all this 
but the present operation of the justice of God ? But even when things 
are not pushed to this extremity, even when we know we are in the 
1 CJ. S. AUG., De curapro mortuis gerenda, c. v. P.L., XL., 597. 

Of Humility 129 

grace of God and feel His love, even then, says St. Benedict, we should 
ever be conscious of the load of our sins, and can ever without falsity 
regard ourselves as already standing before the dread judgement seat 
of God. And while, in the bottom of our hearts, we correspond with 
the exercise of divine justice by a continual act of humble repentance, 
of charity, and of adoration, we must keep exteriorly the only attitude 
that befits us, the attitude of the publican in the Gospel (Luke xviii. 13; 
Matt. viii. 8). Like him we must confess to God that we are unworthy 
to raise our eyes towards heaven and His purity. 1 Or we must repeat 
with the prophet : " Lo, I am bowed down always in humility " 
(Ps. cxviii. 107). 

Ergo his omnibus humilitatis gradi- Having, therefore, ascended all 

bus ascensis, monachus mox ad carita- these degrees of humility, the monk 

tern Dei perveniet illam, quae perfecta will presently arrive at that love of 

foras mittit timorem ; per quam universa God which, being perfect, casts out 

quae prius non sine formidine observa- fear: whereby he shall begin to keep, 

bat, absque ullo labore, velut naturali- without labour, and as it were naturally 

ter ex consuetudine incipit custodire, and by custom, all those precepts which 

non jam timore gehennae, sed amore he had hitherto observed not without 

Christi et consuetudine ipsa bona et fear, no longer through dread of hell, 

delectatione virtutum. QuodDominus but for the love of Christ, and of a 

in operario suo mundo a vitiis et pec- good habit and a delight in virtue. 

catis, Spiritu Sancto dignabitur demon- Which God will vouchsafe to manifest 

strare. by the Holy Spirit in His labourer, 

now cleansed from vice and sin. 

This is the end. Save for the last sentence, it is taken almost 
verbally from Cassian. 2 So here we have the symbolical steps fixed into 
body and soul. When we have scaled them resolutely, without neglect 
ing any and for this a few days retreat will probably not suffice God 
will hasten to give us the promised recompense. This recompense is 
the same as that mentioned at the end of the Prologue: union with 
God in perfect charity. In both passages we read also of a fear which is 
driven out by love, and of an unspeakable sweetness which permeates 
the powers of the soul. It would seem that St. Benedict was anxious 
to fix clearly the nature of this fear which is driven out by perfect 
charity (i John iv. 1 8) : it is not chaste fear, which " abideth for ever and 
ever," but a cowardly fear, which keeps us to the performance of duty 
and magnifies its difficulties; and it is also servile fear, the dread of 
eternal punishment. For St. Benedict would have us substitute 
for this last motive, somewhat inferior and Jewish as it is, the influence 
of nobler motives viz., love of Our Lord, a leaning towards the good, 
a delight in pleasing God. 

Thanks to charity, all that the monk did not aforetime fulfil without 

1 The quotation is far from literal; it recalls a passage of the Prayer of Manasses 
printed at the end of our Latin Bibles: Domine, . . . non sum dignus intueri et aspicere 
altitudinem c<sli pree multitudine iniquitatum mearum. 

2 Intl., IV., xxxix. Cj. Conlat., XI., viii. Compare with this ending to the chapter 
ST. AUGUSTINE, In Epistolamjoann., tract. IX., 2-9. P.L., XXXV., 2045-2052. 


1 30 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

dread, he now, when deeply attached to Our Lord, fulfils without 
effort, as it were spontaneously and naturally, by the influence of good 
habit, and with the secret charm that the practice of virtue brings to 
souls which are delivered from themselves. Love carries us, love has 
transfigured all; its unction has penetrated all the faculties of our being. 
There is no more inertia in us, no more difficulties in things; or, if there 
be still difficulty, it is the condiment of action, a stimulus to good, a 
motive the more for charity to display and prove itself. We are on the 
road to God, with souls all bathed in His love, with natures wholly 
inspired by His gospel and thoroughly Christianized. And assuredly 
joy is not lacking. The exclusion of all sensible and material pleasure 
has prepared us to enjoy the true pleasure and the true good. Quce 
major voluftas quam fasti dium omnis volu-ptatis ? (What greater pleasure 
than aversion from all pleasure ?) said Tertullian. Undoubtedly 
St. Benedict recommended the fear of God s presence as a medicine; 
but that which was the remedy of our convalescence becomes the 
generous nourishment and the delight of our health. Profound happi 
ness, assured and invincible, is to live thus in God s sight, near Him 
and in Him. 

And our Holy Father adds some words to which we may give the 
meaning either of a promise, or of a modest prayer or loving wish. The 
words take the form of a compact which our Holy Father makes with us, 
in the name of Our Lord. Such, says he, is the programme which Our 
Lord will deign to fulfil and show forth. He will not manifest it to the 
world, for where would be the good ? But He will make it known to 
him in whom it shall be accomplished. After having, by means of 
humility, purified His servant and workman from vice and sin, He will 
pour forth in him without stint the substantial unction of His Spirit. 
This is the eternal role of the Spirit of God. Since, in the bosom of the 
Holy Trinity, He is the indissoluble bond, the living tie, and eternal 
embrace of Father and Son, so are attributed to Him ad extra (in external 
operation) all supernatural unions. He it is who unites us to Our Lord 
Jesus Christ and by Our Lord to the Father; He it is who gives us the 
temper for this region and this sanctuary where our life is established 
for ever. And we reach it by the one way which Our Lord traced and 
Himself followed: the humility of little children. 


HAVING traced the main lines of the spiritual training of his 
disciples, St. Benedict now sets himself to organize liturgical 
and conventual prayer. He begins without any doctrinal 
introduction; but we may pause to ask ourselves what the 
Church and the old monastic legislators mean when, whether explicitly 
or not, they make the Divine Office the central and essential work of the 
religious and contemplative life. 

Whatever may be the etymology of the word " religion," 1 it implies, 
in its broadest acceptation, the idea of a relation towards God. In this 
sense the whole creation has a religious character. All things, in the 
very measure in which they possess being, are bound to God their 
Creator, Providence, and Last End. Ontologically all are true, 
beautiful, and good; all are in conformity with the ideal of the divine 
Artificer; all are a created expression of uncreated Beauty; all are in 
accord with His will and are good of Him and for Him, lending them 
selves with facility to His designs. The whole of this vast creation speaks 
of God and obeys Him; it is a sweet song in His ears, a surpassing act of 
praise. " The Lord hath made all things for himself " (Prov. xvi. 4). 
Not even moral evil can disturb the harmony of God s plan. Un 
willingly and with disgust does creation endure the profanation of the 
wicked, who would turn it from its end; it groans in this servitude; and 
while waiting for its day of resurrection and recompense (Rom. viii. 19 sq.) 
it co-operates in the work of redemption and serves as the instrument of 
God s vengeance. Nor is all this a mere dream or an exaggerated fancy. 
Creation as a whole possesses in a true and special way a liturgical 
character. It resembles the divine life itself: for the Holy Trinity is a 
temple wherein, by His eternal generation, the Word is the perfect 
praise of the Father, " the brightness of his glory and the figure of his 
substance"; where the communion of Father and Son is sealed in 
the kiss of peace and in the personal joy which is their common Spirit. 
Glory has been defined as clara notitia cum laude (clear knowledge 
conjoined with praise); by the twofold procession of which we have 
just spoken God finds in Himself His essential glory. It is enough for 
Him; and the glory which He must receive from His works is only 
necessary on the creature s side; for God it remains accidental and 
exterior. Yet He may not renounce it : "I will not give my glory 
to another." 

Furthermore, we should notice that this accidental glory of God 
is only complete on condition that it is at once objective, formal, and 
expressed. Objective glory is the real manifestation of the perfections 

II.-II., q. Ixxxi., a. I. 

132 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

of God : all being, all life, all created beauty, whether natural or super 
natural, is ontologically the praise of God. Formal glory is paid only 
by rational creatures, who alone are capable of appreciating objective 
glory and of tracing it to its source; and only in this act do we get 
religion and liturgy. Without saying anything in this place about 
the religion of the angels, we may at least remark the truly sacerdotal 
position of man in the midst of the lower creation. The Apostle says in 
his Epistle to the Hebrews : " Every high-priest taken from among men 
is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may 
offer up gifts and sacrifices " (v.i). Man himself is taken out of creation, 
raised above it, and made its priest, so that he may offer to God, in his 
own name and in the name of the whole world, an intelligent homage. 
By his very nature an abridgement of the universe a " microcosm," 
as the ancients put it his function is to collect the manifold voices of 
creation, as if all found their echo in his heart, as if he were the world s 
consciousness ; and his mission is to give life to all with his thought and 
love, and to make offering of all, whether in his use of the world or in 
explicit praise. The religious system of the world is completed and 
made perfect only in him; he is the link between the world and God; 
and when this link is broken, then the whole creation is affected and 
falls : " cursed is the earth in thy work " (Gen. iii. 17). 

Man s religion is not aestheticism, nor emotion, nor a blind deference 
to prejudices of upbringing, nor a cosmological theory, nor self-love and 
the love of humanity; it is not even " an affirmation concerning matters 
which lie beyond experience," nor the idea of the infinite; yet all these 
definitions have been advanced. Religion is a moral virtue, the most 
noble of all the moral virtues, and is akin to justice. It disposes us to 
pay God the worship that is His due. And the formal object of this 
worship, the fundamental motive of all religious acts, is the sovereign 
eminence of God, His infinite excellence as it is in itself : " We give 
Thee thanks for Thy great glory," and as it manifests itself for our sake 
in creation, conservation, providence, and all benefits. 1 If we had 
leisure to write the history of any religious act whatever, we should note 
with theologians that it always implies an intellectual appreciation of 
divine excellence, a humble self-abasement, the will to confess sub 
mission, and finally an actual recognition of the divine sovereignty, 
whether by way of an expressive act and confirmation of some sort, 
merely internal in character, or by an act which is at once internal and 
openly manifested. It is this last act which properly speaking makes 
the act of religion and worship, in which the glorification of God is 
consummated. However, a liturgy is something more than this; it is 
the sum of acts, words, chants, and ceremonies, by means of which we 
manifest our interior religion; it is a collective and social prayer, the 
forms of which have a character that is regular, definite, and determined. 

The raising of man to the supernatural order made his relation to 
God more intimate and his religion more exalted. Nor has God been 

1 Summa, II. -II., q. Ixxxi. SUAREZ, De virtute et statu religionis^ 1. I., c. vi. 

Of the Divine Office at Night 133 

content with the priesthood of man for the uniting of Himself to 
creation. This link was fragile, and it broke; and perhaps God s very 
motive in allowing it to break was that He might replace it by another 
priesthood and make another humanity, no longer resting on Adam and 
on man, but on Jesus Christ and the Man-God. When He consented 
to run the risks of creation, it was because He was thinking of the in 
comparable glory that would be paid Him by His Word Incarnate, the 
Redeemer. It would be easy to show how the Incarnate Word com 
pletes the hierarchical series of the three sorts of glory of which we have 
spoken, how the whole creation, both natural and supernatural, is 
united to Him and incorporated with Him, the unique and eternal 
High-Priest, so as to offer to the Holy Trinity a single sacrifice of expia 
tion, adoration, and thanksgiving, filling both time and eternity. To 
participate in His death and in His life by baptism is, in reality, according 
to St. Peter (i Peter ii. 4 ff.), to share in His royal priesthood, so as to 
co-operate in the great liturgical act of which He is at one and the 
same time, and eminently, altar, priest, and victim. Nor has the Apostle 
Paul laid down any other programme for the Christian : " By him there 
fore let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the 
fruit of lips confessing to his name " (Heb. xiii. 15). 

But all particular liturgies centre round, are merged in, and draw 
their strength from, the collective liturgy of that great living organism 
the Church, which is the perfect man and the fulness of Christ. The 
whole life of the Church expresses and unfolds itself in its liturgy; all 
the relations of creatures with God here find their principle and their 
consummation; by the very acts that in the individual as in the whole 
mass realize union with God, the liturgy pays God " all honour and 
glory." In it the Holy Spirit has achieved the concentration, eternaliza- 
tion, and diffusion throughout the whole Body of Christ of the unchange 
able fulness of the act of redemption, all the spiritual riches of the 
Church in the past, in the present, and in eternity. And as the bloody 
sacrifice, and the entry of our High Priest into the sanctuary of heaven, 
mark the culmination of His work, so the liturgy has its centre in the 
Mass, the " Eucharist." The Divine Office and the Hours are but the 
splendid accompaniment, the preparation for or radiance from the 
Eucharist. It may be said that the two economies, the natural and the 
supernatural, meet in this synthetic act, this " Action " par excellence. 
So our Holy Father and other ancient writers 1 are well inspired when 
they call the liturgy in its totality the Opus Dei (Work of God): the 
work which has God and God alone for its direct object, the work which 
magnifies God, the work which works divine things, the work in which 
God is solely interested, of which He is the principal agent, but which 
He has willed should be accomplished by human hands and human lips. 

1 Cf. HJEFT., 1. VII., tract, ii., disq. iii. BUTLER (op. cit., p. 203) notes that the 
expression Opus Dei has the same sense in the Rules of ST. CJESARIUS as in St. Benedict, 
and he adds: Apud alias scriptores antiquiores . . . significabat opera vita spiritualis Vfl 
ascetic^ ex. gr. BASILII Reg., 85, 86, 95, etc. 

1 34 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

There are differences and special privileges among those who are 
consecrated priests and religious by the same baptism. God, by the 
sacrament of Holy Orders, associates some more intimately with the 
priesthood of His Son. Others are religious, not merely in the adjectival 
sense, like ordinary Christians, but substantially and essentially. Every 
authentic form of the religious life has for its first object the unifying 
of the powers of the soul, so as to make them combine for the con 
templation and service of God. To be a religious is to belong to God 
alone, by a consecration and holocaust of one s whole self. " Religion, 
since it is a state in which a man consecrates his whole self and all his 
belongings to the worship of God, and so to speak immolates all, is 
without doubt a state of perfection." 1 We can well understand why 
the Church has entrusted the celebration of her liturgy especially to 
religious. In fact, apart from rare exceptions or dispensations, the 
Divine Office remains the first duty of every religious family. Religious, 
therefore, remain such in substance, even though the Church, desiring 
to secure full success for apostolic or charitable work, puts it into their 
consecrated hands. Yet, they are then religious " with addition," in 
view of work which is superadded and which, though religious because 
of its motive and relation to God, is not so directly and in its object. 

But we monks are religious " without addition," we are religious 
only; we are given up to God to belong to Him solely. In our life no 
distraction and division is possible; our work is of the same nature as our 
life. We are not religious for the Work of God and for study, any more 
than for manual labour: for then our condition would be far inferior 
to that of the secular clergy who are directly concerned with souls. 
We do not deny that a contemplative can and should study; we do not 
dispute that erudite labours or apostolic works may be lawfully under 
taken and successfully accomplished by monks. We content ourselves 
with the affirmation that the proper and distinctive work of the Bene 
dictine, his lot and his mission, is the liturgy. He makes his profession 
so as to be in the Church which is an association for the praise of God 
one who glorifies God according to forms instituted by her who knows 
how God should be honoured and possesses the words of eternal life. 
He is wholly a man of prayer, and the diverse forms of his activity take 
spontaneously a religious colour, a quality of adoration and praise. 
Theologians enquire whether every good act which is performed with 
the formal design of honouring God becomes an act of religion and 
worship. St. Thomas, while recognizing a special value in acts which 
are produced directly by the virtue of religion and are its proper fruit, 
replies that all acts which are prescribed or determined by it take from 
this source a religious character. 2 Actions of this last sort are innumer 
able in a leligious life; and especially because of the profound and total 
consecration of our very being to God s service there can scarcely be an 
act which escapes this transformation, provided the soul is careful often 

1 Summa, II.-IL, q. clxxxvi., a. i. 
3 Summa, II.-IL, ^.*lxxxi., aa. \ et 4. 

Of the Divine Office at Night 135 

to renew and ratify its profession. " If a man devote his whole life to 
the service of God, his whole life will belong to religion." 1 

But, beyond this personal and inclusive consecration which we share 
with all religious, we have, let it be repeated, a special vocation to 
prayer ; the whole practical organization of our life is connected with and 
converges towards worship. The holy liturgy is for us, at one and the 
same time, a means of sanctification and an end. But it is especially 
an end. Our contemplation nourishes itself therein without cessation, 
and so to speak finds in the liturgy its adequate object and proper term. 2 
This should be well understood. It is not a small matter, even from 
a practical point of view, to know our end with all exactitude, to find 
a definition so successful as to include both God and ourselves, His 
interests and ours, His glory and our happiness, the work of time 
and the work of eternity. There is no lack of definitions: we are told 
that our business is to " secure our salvation," " to procure the glory 
of God," " to realize our sanctification," " to attain union with God 
and His eternal life." These definitions are precise but of unequal 
value; though it is true that with a little explanation we may find the 
fulness of doctrine implied in all, and, for enlightened and generous 
souls, the first loses its tendency to lead in practice to lukewarmness and 
a commercial spirituality. The last is the best, and it is the one which 
our Holy Father adopts, in company with all the ancient writers. But 
none, save the second, suggests the idea of liturgy. And it is a pity; 
for after all our union with God is itself ordained for praise. 

The supernatural beauty of Our Lord in us, that perfect resemblance 
to Him which the whole supernatural economy is engaged in forming, 
that divine imprint which the liturgy like some press is ever stamping 
on our souls, is not given to us that we should take our joy in it by 
ourselves, in selfish complacency. If we share more than others in 
the life and the experience of Him who has for His personal mission to 
reveal and glorify the Father, it is that we may share in His destiny, 
may with Him exercise that priesthood of which we have just spoken, 
may, like the ancients of the Apocalypse casting their crowns, or, like 
Our Lord on the Last Day, throw down before the throne of God our 
participated splendour. The value of the act depends upon the value 
of the agent; the adoration depends upon the adorer. And it is only 
because God " seeks those who will adore in spirit and in truth " that 
He has made us one with His Son by means of His Holy Spirit. In the 
wonderful passage with which the Epistle to the Ephesians begins, 
St. Paul makes it plain that the supreme end of creation and redemption, 
of that " recapitulation " of all things in Christ, is the liturgical witness 
to infinite Excellence and infinite Beauty: " He chose us in him before 
the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in 

1 Summa, II.-IL, q. clxxxvi., a. i, ad. 2. 

2 See The Spiritual Life and Prayer according to Holy Scripture and Monastic Tradition, 
chaps, x., xx., xxii., xxjii. (By Madame Cecile Bruyere, Abbess of Ste Cecile de 

136 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

his sight in charity, who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of 
children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose 
of his will: unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath 
graced us in his beloved son." Therefore there is a close connection 
between the three elements: union with God, the praise of God, the 
glory of God. Our individual and conventual sanctity expresses itself 
in that same liturgical prayer which realizes it most effectually; it is our 
blessedness to enter even here below into the life and joy of our God; 
it is to make all that created and uncreated being, which conies to us 
from the Father by way of the Word and Holy Spirit, flow back eternally 
by this same road of the Word and the Spirit towards its beginning that 
has no beginning, the Father. 

Does our Holy Father speak of the liturgy immediately after de 
scribing the individual training of the monk because all our training 
and all our virtue are connected with our prayer ? Is there purpose 
in this order ? We may be allowed to think so, though it would be hard 
to prove it. What is certain is that St. Benedict has himself defined 
the monastic life as the " school of the Lord s service "; that he places 
the regulation of the liturgy in the forefront of his legislation ; that he 
regulates this public prayer with more precision and care than anything 
else, leaving to individual initiative the measure and manner of private 
prayer; that he urges us finally " to set nothing before the Work of God." 
In fact all other monastic occupations depend upon this; the liturgy 
fixes our whole horarium ; it claims almost all the hours of our day, and 
those the best hours. While a life devoted to study profits by the 
silence of the morning hours and the mental clarity that sleep has 
restored to push forward its learned researches at its ease, we for our 
part set ourselves to repeat the same psalms in the presence of the same 
God. Would a monk be faithful to the Rule and his conscience who 
should not give himself readily to this seeming waste, who should as far 
as possible husband the hours of the day so as to measure out parsi 
moniously what shall be given to God ? Though our Holy Father 
calls the Office our servitutis pensum (meed of service), we never consider 
it as a task or forced labour; and if, at times, in an active and very busy 
ministry, some clerics are tempted to fulfil the duty of their Office with 
haste, or even to groan under the weight of this additional burden, there 
can never be any excuse for the monk to regard the Divine Office so. 

What if the world does not understand this work of prayer and does 
not appreciate its purpose, except it be from an aesthetic standpoint ? 
And yet how few are affected by the real and supernatural beauty of the 
rites of the Church or the sacred chant ! We shall never be tempted 
so to reduce our life that the world may comprehend it; for our life is 
what God and St. Benedict and our own free act have made it. Discord 
with the world is a principle of ours, as old as the Gospel and as old as 
our Rule : A steculi actibus se facer e alienum (To keep aloof from worldly 
ways). The world is irreligious of its nature, professedly atheistic, 
sometimes with an atheism which is measured and knows its limitations, 

Of the Divine Office at Night 1 37 

but at others with an aggressive atheism which stops at no lengths and 
at no measures. If the world does not understand the life of con- 
templatives, then why does it single them out for its persecution ? 
Because the hatred of him who inspires the world is more clearsighted. 
Besides irreligion there is the vague religious sentiment of so many 
Christians, and, in a period of feverish activity and utilitarianism, an 
almost universal misunderstanding of the function of prayer. Fas 
est et ab hoste doceri: in the face of this naturalistic and impious con 
spiracy we are more than ever bound to be religious, completely and 
solely, and to assert what men deny or forget. And this not in a 
reactionary spirit, or from rivalry and contrast with other Orders, but 
from a fine and delicate sense of fidelity. Since we are, by special 
title, God s religious, we must, so to speak, offer Him compensation, 
and make our fidelity all the more loyal the more God is deserted: 
" You are they who have continued with me in my temptations. And 
I dispose to you, as my Father hath disposed to me, a kingdom; that 
you may eat and drink at my table, in my kingdom " (Luke xxii. 28-30). 

Our ambition goes no farther than that. Yet we believe in the 
apostolic and social value of our prayer, and we believe that by it we 
reach directly not only God and ourselves, but our neighbours also. 
Even without speaking of its secret influence on the providential course 
of events, is not the spectacle of the Office worthily celebrated a very 
effective sort of preaching ? Since the days of the primitive Church 
(Acts ii. 42-47) the Catholic liturgy has been a principle of unity for the 
people of God, and social charity has been created by it. 1 Can we hope 
to see the true and deep solidarity of Christendom restored, apart 
from that reunion of all around God, sharing in the same prayer and the 
same living Bread ? However this may be, yet we are content to be 
makers of nothing that is visible or tangible, and to have no other 
usefulness than that of adoring God. We are glad and content to attain 
by the Work of God nothing but the essential end of all things, the end 
of the whole rational creation, the very end of the Church. So to act 
is to take here and now the attitude of eternity, and to rehearse for 
heaven; for, according to St. John, the work of those who are admitted 
into the heavenly Jerusalem is contemplation and a royal service : " The 
throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it. And his servants shall 
serve him. And they shall see his face: and his name shall be on their 
foreheads. . . . And they shall reign for ever and ever" (Apoc. xxii. 3-5). 

The methodical order in which St. Benedict sets out the parts of 
his liturgical legislation is obvious. He speaks to us first of the Night 
Office, then of the Day Office, and finally of the general discipline of 
the Divine Office, and of the dispositions which a monk should take 
with him to prayer. We may enumerate the subjects treated in these 
thirteen chapters, while noting that the titles given to them in the 
Rule do not always correspond exactly with their real contents. 

* Read the general Introduction to the Liturgical Teqr, 

138 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

VIII. The hour for the Night Office according to the season. 
IX. The composition of the Night Office in winter. 
X. The composition of the Night Office in summer. 
XI. The composition of the Night Office on Sundays. 
XII. The composition of the Morning Office on Sundays. 

XIII. The composition of the Morning Office on ferias. 

XIV. The composition of the Office on Saints -days. 
XV. The use of Alleluia. 

XVI. The number of the Hours of the Day Office. 
XVII. The composition of the six last Hours of the day. 
XVIII. The distribution of the Psalter among the different Hours. 
XIX. -XX. Attitude of mind and body during prayer. 

In the liturgy, as in other observances of his Rule, St. Benedict 
shows an intelligent eclecticism. His cursus is composed of borrowings 
from the Roman and Ambrosian liturgies, and from the monastic 
liturgies of East and West, with some novelties and personal preferences. 
The whole forms a solid and stable framework, where all important 
details are foreseen; and doubtless St. Benedict wished, on this point as 
on others, to remedy the fluctuations of current monastic discipline. 
Yet the framework was not, as we shall see, absolutely rigid, although the 
time of improvisation and complete liturgical liberty was long past. 
Our Holy Father evidently only intended to regulate divine service 
in his own monasteries ; but, since his work was the most complete, wisest, 
and most discreet which had appeared up to that time, it became little 
by little the sole monastic liturgy, and to some degree inspired the Roman 
liturgy itself. To avoid turning this commentary into a long and 
erudite work, we must leave to the general history of liturgical forms 
and to monastic history the study of the developments of the Divine 
Office, among the secular clergy as well as among monks, from the begin 
ning to St. Benedict and from St. Benedict to our own day; for it would 
be to undertake a complete history of the Breviary. The work of Dom 
Suitbert Baumer (translated from the German into French by Dom 
Biron) may be consulted with profit, and many references will be found 
there. The text of St. Benedict will furnish us only with the occasion 
for a few historical remarks. 

The Work of God begins in the very heart of the night. This 
Night Office, the longest of all, is also the most ancient. It is not 
at all necessary to seek its origin in the expectation of the immediate 
return of the Saviour, of the Trapovcria, but rather in the great Easter 
Vigil and in the other Vigils which the first Christians celebrated, after 
the pattern of this, on Sundays and certain fixed days. The programme 
of a Vigil recalls that of the morning and Sabbath prayer of the syna 
gogues. It was often followed, whether at once or after an interval, 
by the Agape and the service of the Eucharist; yet not always, and it is 
distinct from the celebration of the mysteries. " They declared," 
wrote Pliny to Trajan, " that this was the sum of their fault or error: 

Of the Divine Office at Night 1 39 

that they were wont to meet together on a fixed day before morning, 
to make a song to Christ as to God by themselves and in turn . . .; 
which being done, they would separate and again meet to take food." 
Becoming attached very early to the Mass, the Vigil, or non-liturgical 
service, formed the Ante-Mass or Mass of the Catechumens. Dom 
Cabrol, after pointing out the analogies that exist between the arrange 
ment of the Night Office and that of the Ante-Mass, adds that " the 
other Offices were formed on the model of the Night Office, which 
alone existed at first as a public Office"; there is the same liturgical 
design, though curtailed, in Lauds, Vespers, and the Little Hours. 1 
While the faithful and even the clergy could not celebrate the Night 
Office daily, the monks were from the beginning assiduous in it, and 
we find the Night Office present among them all. 

DE OFFICIIS DIVINIS IN NOCTIBUS. In winter-time, that is, from the 

Hiemis temper e, id est, a Kalendis Calends of November until Easter, 

Novembris usque ad Pascha, juxta the brethren shall rise at what may be 

considerationem rationis, octava hora reasonably calculated to be the eighth 

noctis surgendum est, ut modice am- hour of the night; so that, having 

plius de media nocte pausetur, et jam rested till some time past midnight, 

digesti surgant. they may rise having had their full 


For an accurate conception of the primitive Benedictine Office 
we must obviously set our minds free from modern conditions and the 
customs which time has introduced. In the first place, instead of fixing 
the hour of the Night Office according to the four seasons, our Holy 
Father, for simplicity, divides the year into two great divisions : winter 
and summer. The first extends from the Calends of November to 
Easter, the second from Easter to the aforesaid Calends. The question 
may be raised whether Calends means the first of November, the day 
on which they fall, or the 1 6th of October, the day on which one begins 
to count to them. In Chapter XLVIII., the expression a Kalendis 
Octobris (from the Calends of October) certainly means the I4th of 
September, the beginning of the Monastic Lent. Hildemar, inter 
preting the Rule according to the customs of the Roman Church, 
understands by the Calends of. November either Sunday the 1st of 
November, or the Sunday which precedes the 1st of November, when 
this date falls within the first three days of the week, or the Sunday 
which follows the 1st of November when this date falls within the other 
three days. Calmet admits this explanation all the more readily because 
it appeared to him (wrongly, it would seem) indispensable " for the 
reconciling St. Benedict with himself . . . since he wishes the Office 
and psalter to be begun every Sunday and continued during the week." 
So we have two liturgical seasons instead of four. Our Holy Father s 
purpose is to proportion the Office to the length or brevity of the nights. 

The ancients had also this special way of regarding days and hours. 
Without doubt the civil day among the Romans ran from midnight to 

* P, CA?ROL, Les Origines liturgiques. Appendix I., pp. 317 ft. 

140 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

midnight and was divided into twenty-four hours, which astronomers 
considered as equal or equinoctial; but in current usage the day was 
regarded as composed of two elements viz., day and night. The length 
of day and night naturally varied with the season of the year; never 
theless the number of their divisions or hours remained the same : 
there were twelve hours of the day from sunrise to sunset, and 
twelve hours of night from sunset to sunrise. With midday and mid 
night as fixed points, there were six hours before midday and six hours 
after, six hours before midnight and six hours after. 1 So the length of 
each of these hours was constantly changing. In winter the night hours 
were longer than those of the day, and this was reversed in summer; 
only at the equinoxes of spring and autumn were day and night of 
equal length. The first hour of the day at the equinox commenced 
at what we call 6 a.m.; the first hour of the night at 6 p.m.; and the 
eighth hour of the night, beginning at I a.m., was " full " at 2 a.m.: 
hora octava plena. 

Our Holy Father counted his hours in the Roman fashion. 2 The 
eighth hour of the night, of which he speaks, changed its position and 
moved about during the year, according as one went away from or 
approached the equinox. The rational determination of this eighth 
hour was to fix the hour of rising for his monks: juxta consider ationem 
rationis (commentators usually understand these words of the discretion 
of St. Benedict s ordinance). Further, we may note that St. Benedict 
does not say at what point in the eighth hour his monks should rise: 
that too might vary with the season ; probably it was nearer the beginning 
of the eighth hour in proportion as the nights were longer, and pro 
portionally nearer the end when they were shorter. Perhaps the Abbot 
fixed in advance the exact moment of rising for each night, or rather 
for a week or more, striking a mean. There was need of considerable 
calculation in order to secure the monk a sufficient amount of sleep. 3 
If sleep lasted a little more than half the night, 4 digestion would have 
had time to be completed and all would be ready for the Divine Office. 

1 Vigilice were military divisions of the night. While the Greeks divided the night 
into three watches of four hours each, the Romans divided it into four watches of three 

2 However, D. Mege and other commentators think that St. Benedict divided day 
and night together into twenty-four hours of equal length. 

3 ST. COLUMBANUS treated his monks more roughly: Lassus ad stratum veniat, 
ambulansque dormitet, necdum expleto somno surgere com-pellatur (Regula, ix. P.., LXXX., 
2 1 6). 

* Here again commentators have different interpretations. A monk, perhaps, 
had not to rise shortly after the middle of that period of time which constitutes the 
night, but to obtain an amount of sleep equal to somewhat more than half the night. 
To achieve this it would be necessary to correlate, according to the season, the expiration 
of the eighth hour (in the Roman sense) and bedtime. Let us suppose the date is 
the Calends of November: the night beginning at five o clock in the evening and ending 
at seven o clock in the morning has a length of fourteen equinoctial hours; if the monks, 
rising at the Roman eighth hour that is, about 2.20 a.m. went to bed at 7 p.m., 
they slept a little more than half the night i.e., seven hours and twenty minutes 
(Cf. H/EFT., I. VII., tract, ix., disq. iv., p. 777). 

Of the Divine Office at Night 141 

The monks going to bed after Compline, which was said at nightfall, 
could sleep in winter from six or seven o clock in the evening until 
about two or even three o clock in the morning. All through the year 
the time of rising oscillated, it would seem, between the hours of one 
and three o clock; the custom of rising at midnight, as Martene remarks, 
arose from an inaccurate interpretation of the Rule and is not in con 
formity with tradition. 

The difficulty of calculating the hour of rising was increased for the 
early monks by the fact that they had no striking-clocks or alarums. 
They had often to be content with an approximate time. The ancients 
determined the hour of the day from the height of the sun, from the 
length and direction of its shadow; they had invented, for the measure- 
ment of time, the gnomon, the sundial, the sun-clock. To measure 
duration they used the sand-glass, clepsydra, water-clock. 1 But monks 
did not always possess these instruments, 2 and had to listen for cockcrow 
or follow carefully the movements of the stars. Cassian observes that 
the monk whose duty it is to wake the brethren should not relax his 
vigilance on the plea that he has formed the habit of waking them at the 
same hour : " Although daily custom compel him to wake at the same 
hour, yet he should carefully and frequently calculate the time appointed 
for the community by the courses of the stars and so summon them to 
the duty of prayer." 3 An interesting little treatise of St. Gregory of 
Tours has come down to us with the title: De cursu stellarum ratio, 
qualiter ad officium im-plendum debeat observari 4 (The courses of the 
stars and how to observe them for the purpose of fulfilling the Office). 
The recital of a fixed quantity of prayers, 5 the calculation of the quantity 
of wax consumed in a candle, or of the difference of level in the oil of a 
lamp, were other elementary methods. The Rule of the Master requires 
two brethren to keep watch and consult the horologium frequently. 6 
St. Benedict entrusts the duty of summoning the brethren to the Work 
of God to the Abbot in person, or to a zealous monk acting under the 
supervision of the Abbot; but he was obliged to foresee the possibility 
of forgetfulness and mistakes, and we shall find him consenting to an 
a bridgement of the Office, if the monks sleep has unluckily been pro- 

Quod vero restat post Vigilias, a And let the time that remains after 

fratribus qui Psalterii vel lectionum the Night Office be spent in study by 

aliquid indigent, meditationi inser- those brethren who have still some 

viatur. part of the psalter and lessons to learn. 

The monks did not go back to bed after the Night Office. The 
ancient monks feared that this supplementary rest made the soul lose 
the spiritual vigour that the sacred vigils had inspired and furnished an 

1 Cf. DAREMBERG et SAGLIO, Dictionnaire des Antiquite s grecques et romaines, art. 

2 Cf. H^FT., 1. VII., tract, ix. CALMET, in h. L 3 Inst., II., xvii. 

4 Monumenta Germanice Historica : Scriptores rerum Merovingianim, 1. 1., pp. 854 sq. 

5 See the history of Adolius in Hist. Laus., c. civ. (Vita Patrum, VIII. ROSWEYD, 
p. 769). 6 Cap. xxxi.-xxxii. 

142 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

occasion for illusions of the devil. 1 However, some legislators, especially 
the Master, and also some Benedictine abbots, were less strict. Even 
to strict regulations there were exceptions, the details of which may be 
found in Martene and Calmet: as, for example, when the monks had 
been awakened too soon or when they were suffering from sickness. 

It would have been indiscreet, in the winter Vigils, to continue 
psalmody and lessons from half-past two until six o clock. The lessons, 
as we shall see, were very long at that season. Yet there remained 
before Matins (i.e., Lauds) an interval of varying duration: this period 
was to be devoted to study by those who needed to study some matter 
(literally: by those who are lacking at all in the psalter or lessons). In 
Low Latin, says Calmet, the word meditari has often the meaning of 
* to study, learn by heart or rote. We should remember that in 
St. Benedict s time illiterate or poorly instructed brethren and children 
were received into the monastery. A monk had to learn to follow the 
Office intelligently, and even to take his turn as reader or cantor. From 
the beginning of his monastic life he strove to commit the whole psalter 
to memory; the short lessons and most common liturgical formulas 
were also learnt by heart. Those who had every night to read the 
Scripture or the Fathers from manuscripts which were full of abbrevia 
tions, perhaps defaced by use and faded, by the dim light of a smoky 
lamp, and without the help of spectacles (adds Calmet) : these generally 
required special preparation. If the reader failed to make himself 
understood his hearers could not turn to their books, as we can; for 
breviaries were not invented and manuscripts were rare. Finally, all 
had to penetrate deeply into the meaning of the sacred words. And for 
this preparation, indispensable to the worthy celebration of the Divine 
Office, St. Benedict chose the hours of silence and recollection; they 
supplemented the two hours of sacred reading (lectio divina) which were 
appointed daily for the monks. This ordinance of the Rule is not 
obsolete, and the reader must prepare even in our days. It is a sad 
spectacle to see a man who has learnt Latin floundering through ten lines 
of Scripture or the Fathers, with many wrong pauses, false accents, and 
mistakes of grammar. We should never treat Our Lord as a barbarian. 

But what of the monks who know their lessons and psalter? how will 
they spend the time till Lauds ? There is every reason to believe that 
they did not go back to bed. The time was left to the devotion of the 
monks or to the disposition of the Abbot, as Dom Hugh Menard notes ; 
St. Benedict has not elaborately determined the employment of every 
moment. The monks devoted these times to prayer and spiritual 
reading; but we may look in vain in our Holy Father or the ancients 
for a prescribed half -hour or hour of prayer, still less for a fixed method. 2 

1 CASS., Inst., II., xii.-xiii,; III., v. However, CASSIAN mentions exceptions: Inst., 
III., iv., viii. 

2 The Carthusians have no rule as to mental prayer. Nor had the disciples of 
St. Dominic and St. Francis until the sixteenth century, nor even the Society of 
Jesus at its origin. Cf. P. BOUVIER, L Evolution de la pic t (Etudes, t. CXX. [1909], 
pp. 187-211). 

Of the Divine Office at Night 143 

We are sometimes asked, quite seriously, what could have been their 
" subjects for meditation." The holy liturgy furnished innumerable 
subjects and those always new. Private prayer drew its sap from the 
prayer of the Church and remained Catholic, simple, and living, like 
her. It had not yet entered anyone s head to imprison the movements 
of the soul in rigid moulds and to substitute for their joyous spontaneity 
of expression the dull commonplaces of the stereotyped formula. Who 
could exhaust the study of the psalms, the study of other portions of 
Scripture, the study of the holy Fathers, the study pf the history of the 
Church and the saints ? And who can flatter himself that he has no 
further need for this study ? And again, even though long practice 
has familiarized us with the prayers of the liturgy, and precisely because 
of this familiarity, we must revivify all by constant study, if we do not 
want to become parrots, voice and members doing their duty mechani 
cally without the intervention of the intelligence. The recitation of 
the psalms may become merely an exercise of voice and memory, so 
easily does everything human pass into the category of the unconscious 
and reflex. 

A Pascha autem usque ad supra- But from Easter to the aforesaid 
dictas Kalendas Novembris, sic tern- Calends of November, let the hour 
peretur hora Vigiliarum agenda, ut for the Night Office be so arranged that 
parvissimo intervallo, quo fratres ad after a very short interval, during which 
necessaria naturae exeant, custodito, the brethren may go out for the neces- 
mox Matutini, qui incipiente luce sities of nature, Lauds, which are to 
agendi sunt, subsequantur. 1 be said at daybreak, may begin without 


In summer the determination of the eighth hour does not fix the 
commencement of the Night Office, which is determined by the relation 
between the hour of sunrise and the first Office of the day. Though this 
hour varies according to the season, yet it forms the fixed point from 
which to calculate the hour of rising. There must be time before dawn 
for the saying of the short Vigils ; between this and Lauds the brethren 
must be given some moments for the necessities of nature; the study of 
the psalms and lessons is in this season removed to another time. 2 

Despite the shortness of the Night Office, the monks going to bed 
later than in winter and rising at practically the same hour had less 
sleep; so our Holy Father grants them a siesta after the meal which 
generally took place at the sixth hour (Chapter XL VIII. ). We shall 
meet in Chapters XI. and XIV. the exceptions which modify the arrange 
ments of the present chapter. 

1 The " received text " has modified the original with a view to greater clearness; 
here is the reading adopted by D. BUTLER: Sic temperetur hora ut Vigiliarum Agenda 
parvissimo intervallo, quo fratres ad necessaria naturae exeant, mox Matutini, quiincipiente 
luce agendi sunt, subsequantur. Matutini , parvissimo intervallo . . ., max subsequantur 
Vigiliarum Agenda. And he rightly points out that the word Agenda is used as a noun, 
as it is farther on, in Chap. XIII.: it means the Opus Dei. 

3 CASSIAN mentions the morning service (Lauds) qua expletis nocturnis psalmis et 
orationibus post modicum temporis intervallum solet in Gallice monasteriis celebrari (Inst. t 
III., iv.). 





NOCTURNIS HORIS. Hiemis tempore, 
praemisso in primis Versu: Deus in 
adjutorium meum intende, Domine ad 
adjuvandum me festina, in secundo ter 
dicendum est : Domine labia mea aperies, 
et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam; 
cui subjungendus est tertius Psalmus, 
et " Gloria." Post hunc, Psalmus 
nonagesimus quartus cum Antiphona, 
aut certe decantandus. Inde sequatur 

In winter time, after beginning 
with the verse, Deus in adjutorium 
meum intende, Domine ad adjuvandum 
me festina, let the words, Domine labia 
mea aperies, et os meum annuntia 
bit laudem tuam, be next repeated 
thrice; then the third Psalm, with a 
Gloria, after which the ninety-fourth 
Psalm is to be chanted with an anti- 
phon, or at least chanted. Next 
let a hymn follow. 

THE preceding chapter fixed the hour for the commencement of 
the Night Office and divided the liturgical year into two parts, 
winter and summer; the present chapter explains the composition 
of the Night Office in winter, while the next does the same for 
summer. Only the Office of the time and the ferial Office are here 
dealt with. 

We have, to start with, a double series of preparatory prayers. The 
first series commences with the second verse of the sixty-ninth psalm: 
Deus in adjutorium meum intende. The Egyptian monks, according 
to Cassian, 1 had a great devotion to this sacred formula, which seemed 
to them to suit all times and circumstances. Yet there is nothing to 
prove that it formed part of the liturgy before St. Benedict. Nor is it 
clear that our Holy Father, who mentions it plainly for the Little Hours, 
prescribed it also for the Night Office. The doubt arises not only from 
the fact that the verses Deus in adjutorium and Domine have nearly the 
same sense and so make a tautology; but also and especially because the 
most authoritative reading of the manuscripts omits the verse Deus, etc. 
So it is probable that the monastic Night Office, like the Roman, 
commenced with the invocation taken from the fiftieth psalm (verse 17). 
St. Benedict would have it repeated three times, in honour of the Holy 
Trinity and to emphasize the insistence of the demand. It is very 
appropriate, since God alone can teach us to pray, and the work of praise 
thus begun is especially His work, the " Work of God." 

Next comes the third psalm, chosen without doubt for the verse: 
Ego dormivi et soporatus sum, et exsurrexi quia Dominus suscepit me. 
Thanks to this psalm those who are late may arrive before the Invitatory. 
The psalm is followed by the short doxology, Gloria Patri, composed, 
or at least greatly popularized, at the time of the Arian controversies. 
The formula used at Monte Cassino was most probably the same as now; 

1 Conlat., X., x. 

How many Psalms are to be said at the Night Hours 145 

for to its clause nunc et semper, etc., the Council of Vaison in A.D. 529, 
presided over by St. Caesarius, had ordered the addition of the words 
sicut erat in principio, in imitation of what was said in so many places : 
" not only at Rome but also throughout the whole East, 1 and the whole 
of Africa and Italy." 2 Our Holy Father would have the Gloria said after 
each psalm (we may infer this from many passages of the Rule) : this is 
the Western use, different, according to Cassian, from that of the whole 
East : " In this province, at the end of a psalm, one intones and all join 
loudly in Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, a thing we have not heard 
throughout the whole East; there the psalm is usually finished by the 
cantor, all the rest being silent, and, when the psalm is ended, a prayer 
follows; only the antiphon is terminated by this praise of the Trinity." 3 
St. Benedict has the Gloria also at the end of the canticles, at the end 
of certain responses, and after the Deus in adjutorium of the Day Hours, 

Up to this point the preparatory formulas of the Office have had 
a very general character: with the ninety-fourth psalm a second prepara 
tion begins, including the Invitatory and the Hymn and having a more 
immediate relation, at least in actual usage, to the liturgy of each day. 
The Invitatory 4 is intended to dispel all torpor, whether of body or 
soul, to awaken fervour, and tune the instrument of praise. So it is 
given a special solemnity : it is chanted with an antiphon according to 
the manner which we shall describe; at least it should be chanted, aut 
eerie decantandus, probably in the mode and with the melody of a psalm 
accompanied by an antiphon. 5 Nor is it only for the sake of solemnity 
that St. Benedict would have the Invitatory performed thus, for in 
Chapter XLJII. he recommends that it should be said " very slowly 
and protractedly " (omnino protrahendo et morose) so as to give the 
brethren plenty of time to arrive before the Gloria at its close and so 
avoid a humiliating penance. 

We promised to leave to the liturgy course all questions which belong 
to it ; yet we must say a word concerning the ancient psalmody, or else 
leave unexplained or misunderstood several regulations of the Holy 
Rule. Our Holy Father makes a distinction between psalms said 
" without an antiphon, straight on " (sine antiphona, in directum) and 

1 D. HUGH MENARD (Concord. Regal., c. xxiii., append. I, p. 343) conjectures 
that these words are an interpolation, cum nusquam repereris sicut erat in principio 
tune apud Gracos in usufuisse ; nor do the Greeks say them now. 

2 Can. v. MANSI, t. VIII., col. 727. 3 Inst.j II., viii. 

4 C/. D. BAUMER: art. Invitatorium in the Kirchenlexicon of WETZER and WELTER. 

5 We leave to the specialists the task of telling us what was the sacred chant before 
our Holy Father and in his time. The Rule ordinarily employs vague phrases; to " say " 
the psalms, to " psalmodize " the psalms and canticles; sometimes, however, it is a little 
more explicit : sexpsalmi cum alleluia cantandi (c. ix.) ; modulatis, ut supra disposuimus, sex 
psalmis et versu (c. xi.); vespera quotidie quatuor psalmorum modulatione canatur (c. xviii.) 
As to the lessons we know nothing: the Rule speaks of " reading," of " saying," and of 
" reciting " them. We know that responsories were " chanted." And that is all. 
See what CASSIODORUS says of the chanting of the psalms and Alleluia, and of jubili. 
Cf. BAUMER, Histoire du Brwiaire, t. I., pp. 257-260. 

6 While we use much recent work we may not neglect the Preface of B. TOMMASI to 
Responsorialia et Antipbonaria Romance Ecclesia. 


146 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

psalms said " with an antiphon " (cum antiphona). Let us deal with the 
second first. It is a species of what is called alternative psalmody, in 
which the voices answer or echo one another. When a single singer 
alternates with the choir we have what is called responsorial psalmody, 
a kind that was in current use during the early centuries and is frequently 
alluded to by the Fathers of the Church, as for example by St. Augustine. 
Our Invitatory is a psalmus responsorius, and everything would lead us 
to believe that with St. Benedict also, to say the ninety-fourth psalm 
cum antiphona meant, not merely to put an antiphon before and after 
it, but to interpolate a refrain after each verse or group of verses. This 
" response" of the choir was generally taken from the psalm itself, and 
was short and simple in melody. 

Here, for St. Benedict, the antiphon performs the function of a 
response. Yet liturgists distinguish responsorial psalmody from anti- 
phonal psalmody. Even if the latter is only a modification of the former, 
it certainly implies new and different elements; but the most character 
istic difference is perhaps not that which is generally given, the alter 
nation of choir with choir. 1 In the antiphonal psalmody of the fourth 
century whatever may be its origin and the primitive meaning of the 
word a*/Tt<o)i>o9, which lends itself so readily to ambiguity the novelty 
would rather lie, according to Bishop Petit, 2 in the fact that the inter 
polated refrains " are not taken from the psalm itself, but composed in 
their entirety; and finally that these refrains are no longer rendered in 
unison, as in responsorial psalmody, but in harmony and with modula 
tions hitherto unknown." Dom Cagin had before this described, in 
his preface to the sixth volume of Paltographie Musical?, 3 the liturgical 
revolution which was effected " almost simultaneously at Constanti 
nople, in Cappadocia, at Jerusalem, Antioch, and Edessa," and finally 
at Milan under St. Ambrose, " as a result of the same circumstances and 
on the same ground. It was everywhere a question of combating 
Arianism." And he concluded: "What is new is not perhaps the 
psalmody of two choirs in itself, but the psalmody of two choirs of the 
people . . . what is especially new is the hymn literature with its 
anthems or alternate strophes, with the anti-Arian doxology performing 
the function of vTraKorj (response). . . . What is new, finally, is the 
Vigil Office, which was performed at Milan according to the custom 
of the East, 4 like the psalms and hymns. . . ." " At this time," writes 
Paulinus, the biographer of St. Ambrose, " antiphons, hymns, and vigils 
first began to be in vogue in the church of Milan. And the devotion 
to these services remains to the present day, not only in the same church, 
but throughout almost all the provinces of the West." 5 

1 The Jews were already familiar with methods analogous to the responsorial and 

2 In the article Antipbone dans la liturgie grecque of the Dictionnaire d Arcb. ologte 
chre tienne et de Liturgie. 

3 See also, in t. V., the Avant-Propos a V Antiphonaire ambrosien, pp. 29-38. 

4 S. AUG., Confess., 1. IX., c. vi.-vii. P.L., XXXIL, 769-770. 


How many Psalms are to be said at the Night Hours 1 47 

The liturgy of Monte Cassino, for its part, is probably indebted to 
that of Milan. Though it be less animated and less rich than the 
Ambrosian service, the Benedictine Night Office is more so than that of 
which St. Benedict read a short description in the second and third 
books of the Institutes of. Cassian. The psalmody of the Egyptian monks 
was of the simplest possible kind: one monk chanted the psalms, or a 
whole series of psalms (never more than six each), while the rest listened, 
seated and in silence; from time to time all rose and prostrated themselves 
for a secret prayer, then an old monk improvised or recited a prayer: 
" One comes forward to sing psalms to the Lord. And when, while 
all sit ... and attend to the words of the cantor with all attention of 
heart, he has chanted eleven psalms separated by the interposition of 
prayers, with verses connected and uttered alike, finishing the twelfth 
with the response of Alleluia . . .," etc. 1 This is not even responsorial 
psalmody; yet there is, at the last psalm, a "response" of the hearers; 
and Cassian records the care of the Egyptian monks " that for the 
Alleluia response no psalm is used but such as in its title has the word 
Alleluia." 2 In Palestine and other parts of the East the psalmody was 
less monotonous and less fatiguing, although all took more share in it; 
the Vigils comprised three stages : " For after standing and singing 
three anthems, they sit on the ground, or on very low seats, and answer 
three psalms which one sings, each of which psalms is given them by a 
different monk, the brethren taking the duty in turn, and to these they 
add three lessons sitting again in silence." 3 But Cassian regards the 
custom of chanting twenty or thirty psalms in one night as an indis 
creet novelty: " and these, too, protracted by the singing of antiphons 
and the addition of some modulations." 4 The Eastern monks, at any 
rate those of the desert, were long hostile to the introduction into their 
liturgy of canons and troparia? 

St. Benedict, like St. Caesarius, 6 adopts antiphons, responses, and 
hymns. To chant the psalms with an antiphon probably means to 
insert a refrain between the verses. In that way the Office was made 
more solemn, longer, and more laborious. That is why our Holy Father 

* /**., II., v. 

2 Inst., II., xi. In the Rule of ST. PACHOMIUS allusion is made several times to 
responsorial psalmody: xiv.-xviii., cxxvii.-cxxviii. 

3 Inst., III., viii. See the letter of ST. BASIL to the clergy of Neo-Caesarea. P.O., 
XXXIL, 760-765. 

4 Inst., II., ii. What is the exact meaning for CASSIAN of the word " antiphon " ? 
(Cf. also Inst., II., viii.) In the ancient writers it means sometimes a chant in octaves, 
sometimes alternate recitation, sometimes the psalm itself or the composition executed 
in this manner, with or without the insertion of a refrain, sometimes the refrain, etc. 
See the Peregrinatio ad loca sancta, the author of which we may call EUCHERIA until 
better evidence is available. 

5 Cf. E. BOUVY, Poetes et milodes, pp. 234^". 

6 Reg. ad mon., xxi. Cf. especially: Reg. monasterii sancta Ceesariee, xi. Acta 
SS., xii. Januarii (HOLSTENIUS does not give so complete a text). The cursus indicated 
is that of L ^rins; the Rule of ST. AURELIAN gives nearly the same one. Pore BLUME 
(Der Cursus S. Benedict! Nursini und die liturgischen Hymnen des 6-9 Jahr bunder ts . . ., 
PP- 35~39) c i te8 this cursus of Lc^rins according to the Munich manuscript 28118. 

148 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

suppresses antiphons for the Little Hours, if the community is not 
large, and at Compline (Chapter XVII. ). The sixty-sixth psalm, which 
begins Lauds, the psalms of the Little Hours when the community is 
small, and those of Compline. were said directanee, in directum (straight 
through, without interruption). This sort of psalmody appears also 
in the liturgy of St. Csesarius and of St. Aurelian; it exists too, with the 
same rubric, in the Ambrosian liturgy, and consists in the whole choir 
executing the chant with one voice and continuously. 1 But, if we keep 
closely to the text of the Rule, all we have is a psalmody deprived of 
antiphons, without any indication of the manner of its execution. 2 
It is not even certain, as Calmet judiciously remarks, that the psalms 
cum antiphonis (with antiphons) were chanted by two choirs. Perhaps 
the responsorial method, which was used by the Fathers of the East, 
and which we find shortly after St. Benedict s time in St. Aurelian, 
was preserved by him. Perhaps all the monks, who were capable of 
fulfilling this office worthily and were authorized by the Abbot, chanted 
the psalms in turn, whether alone or grouped in a scbola, the choir 
repeating the antiphon which the soloist or schola had given out at the 
beginning. 3 " Let the Psalms and Antiphons be intoned by those whose 
duty it is, each in his order, after the Abbot. Let no one presume to 
sing or to read except such as can so perform the office that the hearers 
may be edified" (Chapter XLVIL; see also Chapter LXIIL). It is 
said also of one forbidden the common meal: " He shall intone neither 
psalm nor antiphon in the oratory, nor shall he read a lesson, until he 
have made satisfaction " (Chapter XXIV.). 4 We cannot argue that 
the expression imp one re has, like " intone " with us, the sense of giving 
out the first words or first notes: for St. Benedict himself, in Chapter 
XLIV., gives it a wider meaning: " So that he presume not to intone 
psalm, or lesson, or anything else, in the oratory." 

As regards responses, our Holy Father distinguishes the " short 
responsory " from the long one which followed the long lessons and was 
long enough in itself to be capable of abridgement if the brethren had 
risen too late (Chapter XL). The long responsory was either a real 
" responsorial psalm " with a more elaborate melody, or perhaps a 
historia in scriptural or ecclesiastical style; its execution probably 
demanded special ability: but all that the Rule tells us is that a " cantor " 
here intervened. 

Inde sequatur Ambrosianum : that is the hymn, borrowed from 
St. Ambrose and the liturgy of Milan. 6 Without raising any question 

1 Cf. TOMMASI, op. cit. 

2 In any case psalmody in directum is not mere recitation recto tono, as D. CALMET 
remained " persuaded," in spite of Tommasi (Comment, on chap. xii.). 

3 Analogous usages still exist to-day in the liturgy of the Greeks. Cf. D. PLACID DE 
MEESTER, Voyage de deux Benedictins aux monasteres du Mont Athos, pp. 256-257. 

* We cannot draw precise information as to St. Benedict s psalmody from those 
words of Chapter XLIII. : Nonprcesumat sociari choro psallentium usque ad satisfactionem. 

5 Consult: C. BLUME, Der Cursus S. Benedict! Nursini und die liturgischen Hymnen 
des 6-9 Jahr bunder ts, noticed in the Revue B. md.^ 1908, pp. 367-374; 1911, pp. 362-3(^4. 

How many Psalms are to be said at the Night Hours 1 49 

as to the correctness of this attribution our Holy Father speaks according 
to current usage. The great bishop had, so to speak, won citizen rights 
for the hymn in the Western Church. At the very dawn of Christianity, 
in the Epistles of St. Paul for example (Rom. xiii. 11-12; Eph. v. 14; 
I Tim. iii. 16; 2 Tim. ii. 11-13), there are plain traces of these spiritual 
hymns in which the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit found free 
expression. But heretics abused this very popular instrument in order 
to sow their errors broadcast; the need arose of administering an anti 
dote, and Catholic literature was enriched with valuable compositions. 
However, the Roman Church, doubtless ever watchful of danger, 
showed herself at first very reserved with regard to hymns and did not 
officially admit them into her liturgy until long after St. Benedict. 

Deinde sex Psalmi cum Antiphonis. Then six psalms with antiphons. 

Quibus dictis, dicto Versu, benedicat These being said, and also a versicle, 

Abbas, et sedentibus omnibus in scam- let the Abbot give the blessing: and, 

nis, legantur vicissim a fratribus in all being seated in their places, let 

codice super analogium tres Lectiones, three lessons be read by the brethren 

inter quas tria Responsoria canantur. in turn, from the book on the lectern. 

Duo Responsoria sine " Gloria " dican- Between the lessons let three respon- 

tur. Post tertiam vero Lectionem, sories be sung two of them without a 

qui cantat, dicat "Gloria"; quam Gloria,but after the third let the cantor 

dum incipit cantor dicere, mox omnes say the Gloria : and as soon as he begins 

de sedilibus surgant ob honorem et it, let all rise from their seats out of 

reverentiam sanctissima? Trinitatis. honour and reverence to the Holy 

Codices autem legantur in Vigiliis, Trinity. Let the divinely inspired 

tarn veteris Testament!, quam novi, books, both of the Old and New Testa- 

divinae auctoritatis; sed et expositiones ments, be read at the Night Office, 

earum, quas a nominatissimis, et ortho- and also the commentaries upon them 

doxis, et catholicis Patribus factae sunt. written by the most renowned, ortho 
dox, and Catholic Fathers. 

Psalmody is the essential part of the Office. As the ferial Office is 
divided into two nocturns, each of these has attributed to it six of the 
twelve psalms, which, traditionally, according to Eastern custom and 
angelical monition, 1 had to be recited every night. The versicle and 
its response, short utterances of the soloist and choir, revive the spirit 
of prayer and make the transition from the psalms to the lessons. 

The synagogue also used to combine lessons with psalmody; the Law 
was read first and then the Prophets; finally, the person best qualified 
gave a homily: Our Lord did so on occasion (Luke iv. 1 6 sq.). The 
Christian Church adopted an analogous arrangement: Old Testament, 
the Acts or Epistles, the Gospel, and a sermon, read or spoken. We 
find the three lessons of the Ante-Mass of certain days in our Roman 
missal; and we know that the Ante-Mass is perhaps a relic of the ancient 
Vigil. At the Ante-Mass as in the Vigil there were sometimes read also 
the letters of holy bishops, such as St. Clement of Rome, the letters of 
the Churches, the Passions of Martyrs on their days. Without seeking 
to discover what was original in St. Benedict s choice and arrangement 

1 CASS., Intl., II., v. 

150 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

of lessons, 1 we may simply set down the fact that he prescribed 
readings from the Old Testament, from the New Testament, and from 
authorized commentaries of the Fathers. He does not tell us whether 
the three lessons of ferial Vigils were taken from these three sources 
and in this order; the eleventh chapter merely tells us that the lessons 
of the third nocturn on Sundays are from the New Testament and that 
the solemn reading of the Gospel comes last. 

Nor do we know how far the duty of determining the lessons was 
left to the Abbot. It would seem that tradition and use had long before 
assigned appropriate portions of Scripture to the principal liturgical 
seasons, and these are sometimes the same lessons as now. 2 Moreover, 
the Acts of the Martyrs had to be read on their feast days ; while in the 
fourteenth chapter our Holy Father requires the recital on the feasts 
of saints and on all solemn days of the psalms, antiphons, and lessons 
"^belonging to the day itself." Doubtless more liberty was left to the 
Abbot with regard to the writings of the Fathers. St. Benedict 
recommends him to have read as Holy Scripture none but authentic 
and canonical books, and to choose, among the best known Fathers, those 
who were orthodox and Catholic. The true faith is the first considera 
tion. At a time when manuscripts were scarce and critical capacity was 
rare, wrong or dubious doctrine might easily steal into souls by way 
of the church lessons ; the more that at the beginning, in default of any 
formal decision of the Church, it was the fact of being read constantly 
in assemblies for worship that settled the authenticity and orthodoxy 
of the books themselves. The famous decree concerning public lessons, 
ascribed to Pope Gelasius, 3 is perhaps contemporaneous with our Holy 
Father. In his time were read especially St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, 
St. Augustine, and even Origen. 

" When the versicle has been said, let the Abbot give the blessing." 
The reader asked from the president of the choir permission to be heard, 
and solicited by his agency the blessing of God; 4 our formula for this is 
very ancient. Smaragdus quotes a formula of blessing: " Precibus 
omnium sanctorum suorum salve t et benedicat nos Dominus, or another 
blessing of this sort." No distinction was yet made between Blessing 
and Absolution. It would seem that the Abbot did not give three 

1 CASSIAN says that the monks of Egypt, after chanting twelve psalms at the Office 
of the evening and of the night, have two lessons, one from the Old and one from the 
New Testament (Inst., II., iv.). In die vero sabbati vel dominico utrasque de novo recitant 
Testamento, id est unam de Apostolo vel Actibus Apostolorum et aliam de Evangeliis ; 
quod etiam totis Quinquagesimce diebus faciunt hi, quibus lectio curce est seu memoria 
Scripturarum (ibid., vi.). In Palestine three lessons are recited (III., viii. See the notes 
of the editor, D. GAZET). 

2 Cf. Palfograpbie musicale, t. V., p. in, note. D. BAUMER, Hist, du Brtviaire, 
1. II., c. iv., v.: "Lessons," t. I., pp. 380 ff. D. BAUDOT, Les Evangtliaires ; les 

3 THIEL, Epistola Romanorum Pontificum genuinee, t. L, pp. 454 sq. C/. E. VON 
DOBSCHUTZ, Das Deere turn Gelasianum (Leipzig, 1912). D. J. CHAPMAN, On the 
Deere turn Gelasianum de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis (Revue Benedictine, 1913). 

4 Cf. GRANCOLAS, Commentaire historique sur le Briviaire Remain, t. I., p. 207. 

How many Psalms are to be said at the Night Hours 1 5 1 

blessings but only one, 1 in which the three readers who succeeded one 
another at the pulpit or lectern (analogium does not signify only the 
ambo) were considered to share. St. Benedict says expressly that the 
brethren read in turn, doubtless so that they might not be fatigued. 
As a fact the lessons were much longer then than now: St. Caesarius 
speaks of " three leaves." 2 And this custom lasted for many centuries. 
" In the Cluniac order," says Calmet, 3 " the whole of Genesis was read 
in Septuagesima week, and the whole of Isaias in six week-days. St. 
Udalric relates that a monk, who marked the end of the lessons, was 
accused in Chapter of having cut them too short, since he had had only 
the Epistle to the Romans read in two week-days. Blessed John of 
Gorze 4 once read the whole of the prophet Daniel for a single lesson." 
The length of the lessons varied according to the length of the nights, 
and depended on the will of the presider and on custom. 5 They could 
not be recited by memory, as could the psal-ms: and our Holy Father 
mentions the codex placed on the lectern. 

In the monasteries of St. Caesarius and St. Aurelian the reader sat. 
St. Benedict only says that all the brethren are seated on benches, 
in scamnis, during the lessons (except during the reading of the Gospel : 
Chapter XL), and during the responses, except at the Gloria. That 
would lead us to infer that the psalms were recited standing. The 
early Christians prayed thus; and commentators point out that St. 
Benedict regularly uses the word stare (to stand) when speaking of the 
ordinary posture of the monks in choir : sic stemus ad psallendum . . .; 
post Abbatem stare . . . ; in choro standum . . . ; ultimus omnium stet. 
And if our Holy Father does not order the monks to rise at the Gloria 
of the psalms, the reason is that they are already standing. As a matter 
of fact, too, the Greek monks sit only during the lessons ; and we ourselves, 
even when we take advantage of the " misericords " of our stalls, are 
considered to be standing. We do not know how the lessons terminated. 
Some centuries after St. Benedict we learn that in certain churches 
the chief of the choir caused the reader to stop by the words : Tu autem 
(siste understood); the latter replied: Domine miserere nobis, and the 
choir : Deo gratias. 

We have already spoken of the responsories which followed naturally 
on the lessons, lectiones cum responsoriis suis, and of which the last 
ended with the Gloria. We may mark what St. Benedict says about the 
devotion of the monks to the Holy Trinity, and be careful that our 
profound bows are something more than mere mechanical motions. 
St. Benedict only prescribes rising; but bows, genuflexions, and pros 
trations have always existed in the Church; and our Holy Father did 
not intend to write a complete ceremonial (genuflexion is mentioned 
in Chapter I.). 

1 In Chapter XI. St. Benedict mentions a blessing before the lessons of the third 
nocturn only, but it is permissible to think that one was given before those of the first 
two also. 

2 Reg. ad mow., xx. 8 Commentary on Chapter VIII. 

* Acta 55., Febr., t. III., p. 705. 5 Cf. UDALR., Consuet. Clun., 1. I., c. i. 

1 5 2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Post has vero ties Lectiones cum After these three lessons with their 

Responsoriis suis, sequantur reliqui sex responsories let six more psalms 

Psalmi cum " Alleluia " cantandi. follow, to be sung with an Alleluia. 

Post hos Lectio Apostoli sequatur, ex Then let a lesson from the Apostle 

corde recitanda, et Versus, et suppli- be said by heart, with a verse and 

catio Litaniae, id est, " Kyrie eleison" the petition of the Litany that is, 

Et sic finiantur Vigiliae nocturnae. Kyrie eleison. And so let the Night 

Office come to an end. 

There was no interval between the nocturns ; but, as soon as the first 
ended, six more psalms were chanted, not now with an antiphon, but 
with Alleluia. We have met this use of Alleluia in Cassian. It is 
probable that with St. Benedict it was repeated, after the manner of an 
antiphon, in the course of the psalm. Then came a lesson taken from 
the Apostle St. Paul, short enough to be said by heart; and, after the ver- 
sicle, the petition of the Litany that is to say, as St. Benedict explains, 
Kyrie Eleison. 1 But the Kyrie, many times repeated, was only the 
beginning of a series of earnest supplications which in the early centuries 
used to end the principal liturgical functions: these are the capitella 
which are mentioned, for example, by the Council of Agde of A.D. 506, 
as well as by the Rules of St. Csesarius and St. Aurelian, and they are 
the pr eces feriales preserved in the Roman breviary. Though St. Bene 
dict does not speak here of the Pater noster, it is quite probable that it 
was recited and that secretly (see Chapter XIII.); it formed part of the 
Litany. According to many commentators and liturgists our Holy 
Father also implied the saying of the traditional collect, and only with, 
this would the Night Office be finished, as in the case of all the other 
Hours. To this we shall have occasion to return. 

1 The Council of Vaison in 529 (can. iii. MANSI, t. VIII., col. 727) decrees: Ut 
Kyrie eleison frequentius cum grandi ajfectu ct compunctione dicatur, . . . ad Matutinos 
et ad Miss as et ad Vesper am. 


From Easter to the Calends of 
November let the same number of 
psalms be recited as prescribed above; 
only that no lessons are to be read from 
the book, on account of the shortness 
of the nights: but instead of those 
three lessons let one from the Old 
Testament be said by heart, followed 
by a short responsory, and the rest 
as before laid down; so that never 
less than twelve psalms, not counting 
the third and ninety-fourth, be said 
at the Night Office. 


NOCTURNA LAUS. A Pascha autem us 
que ad Kalendas Novembris, ut supra 
dictum est, omnis psalmodiae quantitas 
teneatur: excepto quod Lectiones in 
codice, propter brevitatem noctium, 
minime legantur, sed pro ipsis tribus 
Lectionibus una de veteri Testamento 
memoriter dicatur, quam breve Re- 
sponsorium subsequatur, et reliqua 
omnia ut dictum est impleantur, id est, 
ut nunquam minus a duodecim Psal- 
morum quantitate ad Vigilias nocturnas 
dicatur, exceptis tertio et nonagesimo 
quarto Psalmo. 

THE subject of this chapter throughout is ferial Vigils. The time 
is now summer, from Easter to November, when the nights are 
shorter. They still suffice for the psalmody, even with antiphons 
interspersed; but dawn comes too soon to give time for the long 
lessons of the Old and New Testaments and commentaries of the Fathers ; 
and there must be no delaying of the hour of Lauds, which remains 
fixed to daybreak, nor any indiscreet shortening of the time of sleep. 
The necessary reduction must not effect the psalmody, for that is more 
directly addressed to God and is the part of the Office formally devoted 
to prayer. The three lessons of the first nocturn shall be replaced by a 
single lesson from the Old Testament, said by heart and therefore very 
short. Instead of the three long responsories, one only, and that a very 
brief one, shall be chanted. All is done to-day as St. Benedict prescribed. 
The second portion of the Office is exactly the same as in winter: 
six psalms with Alleluia for the antiphon. There is no other difference 
between the Office of summer and of winter than the matter of the 
lessons and responsories. Our Holy Father insists that never less than 
the twelve psalms sanctioned by holy tradition shall be recited; and, to 
prevent all misunderstanding, he reminds us that the third and ninety- 
fourth psalms are not counted in this series of the twelve psalms of the 
Night Office. 



On Sundays let the brethren rise 
earlier for the Night Office, in which 
the measure shall be observed. When 
six psalms and a versicle have been 
sung (as already prescribed), and all 
are seated on benches in their proper 
order, let four lessons with their 
responsories be read from the book, 
as before: and to the last responsory 
only let the reader add a Gloria, all 
reverently rising as soon as he begins it. 


LIJE AGANTUR. Dominico die tem- 
perius surgatur ad Vigilias, in quibus 
Vigiliis teneatur mensura, id est, 
modulatis, ut supra disposuimus, sex 
Psalmis, et Versu, residentibus cunctis 
disposite et per ordinem in subselliis, 
legantur in codice, ut supra diximus, 
quatuor Lectiones cum Responsoriis 
suis, ubi tantum in Responsorio quarto 
dicatur a cantante "Gloria"; quam 
dum incipit, mox omnes cum rever- 
entia surgant. 

THE liturgy of Sunday Vigils deserved a special chapter; for this 
Office is, as was fitting, the most solemn and most complete. 
Its composition is to remain the same, says St. Benedict, through 
out the year, without distinction of summer and winter. On 
Sundays the monks must rise earlier than during the week, because of 
the length of the Office, and in summer especially will the time of rising 
have to be put forward, if Lauds are to commence at dawn, incipifnU 
luce. Since on this day there is no manual labour the monks are able 
to devote more time to prayer and to endure the fatigue of longer vigils. 
Our Holy Father does not repeat what he has said already about the 
preparatory prayers. At the Sunday Night Office, he says, " the 
measure shall be observed." This does not mean discretion, nor the 
measure that will presently be given, but rather that which has been 
already fixed for the first nocturn of ferial Vigils. That is to say, 
explains St. Benedict, that six psalms (with their antiphons, of course) and 
the versicle shall be " modulated," as has been said previously. Then 
all shall take their seats, according to rank, in good order, and the lessons 
shall commence. These shall be read at the lectern from the book and 
by the brethren in turn, ut supra diximus (as said above). But this time 
there are four lessons with their respective responsories. Only at the 
fourth responsory, and not as before at the third, does the cantor add the 
Gloria and all rise in reverence. St. Benedict does not say from what 
source the lessons were taken, but we may conjecture that they were from 
Scripture, perhaps from the Old Testament. 

Post quas Lectiones sequantur ex After the lessons let six more psalms 

ordine alii sex Psalmi cum Antiphonis, follow in order, with their antiphons 

sicut anteriores, et Versus. Post quos and versicle as before; and then let 

iterum legantur aliae quatuor Lectiones four more lessons with their respon- 

cum Responsoriis suis, 



sories be read in the same way as the 


How the Night Office is to be said on Sundays 155 

The second nocturn follows the first without an interval and starts 
with six psalms, taken according to their order in the psalter. They also 
have their antiphons, differing in this from the psalms of the ferial 
second nocturn which are chanted with Alleluia. After the versicle 
come four more lessons with their responsories, ordine quo supra (in the 
manner previously indicated) that is, with the Gloria at the end of the 
fourth, all standing the while. These lessons were probably taken from 
the Fathers of the Church. 

Post quas iterum dicantur tria Next let three canticles from the 

Cantica de Prophetis, 1 quae instituerit prophets be said, as the Abbot shall 

Abbas; quae Cantica cum "Alleluia" appoint, which canticles are to be 

psallantur. Dicto etiam Versu, et sung with an Alleluia. After the 

benedicente Abbate, legantur aliae versicle, and the blessing given by the 

quatuor Lectiones de novo Testa- Abbot, let four more lessons from the 

mento, ordine quo supra. New Testament be read as before. 

There is a third nocturn ; but in order not to exceed the sacred number 
of twelve psalms our Holy Father seeks material for the psalmody in the 
prophetical canticles of the Old Testament. The Abbot shall choose 
them at his pleasure, whether among all those in the Bible, or among 
those used by the liturgies. For the use of these canticles is considerably 
earlier than St. Benedict s time, if not among monks, at any rate in 
many churches of the East, in the churches of Milan and Rome, etc. 
The antiphon Alleluia accompanies the canticles, and so is always 
kept for the last portion of the psalmody. The versicle is said, the 
Abbot blesses the reader, as he has perhaps already twice blessed him, 
at the beginning of the lessons of each nocturn; then four lessons of the 
New Testament (Acts of the Apostles or Epistles) are read with their 
responsories and the Gloria after the fourth : ordine quo supra (as above) . 

Post quartum autem Responsorium And at the end of the fourth 

incipiat Abbas Hymnum: " Te Deum responsory, let the Abbot begin the 

laudamus." Quo dicto, legat Abbas hymn Te Deum laudamus. After the 

Lectionem de Evangelio, cum honore hymn let the Abbot read the lesson 

et tremore stantibus omnibus. Qua from the Gospel, while all stand in 

perlecta, respondeant omnes : " Amen." awe and reverence. The Gospel being 

Et subsequatur mox Abbas Hymnum : ended, let all answer Amen. Then 

" Te decet laus." Et data benedic- let the Abbot go on with the hymn, 

tione incipiant Matutinos. Te decet laus; and after the blessing 

has been given, let them begin Lauds. 

This is the solemn conclusion of the Night Office. The Abbot 
intones the Te Deum. 2 The order of lessons adopted by St. Benedict 
was admirable; after the Old Testament, the Fathers, and the apostolical 
writings, last of all came the Gospel, the very voice of Our Lord Jesus 
Christ, at the culminating point of the Office. All stood and a religious 
fear brooded over all: cum honore et tremore stantibus omnibus. The 

1 St. Benedict probably wrote de Propbetarum, de Evangelia (similarly in Chapters 
XII., XIIL, XVIL). Sic omnes fere codices antiqui ; hi erant titvli volumtnum 
S. Scripturarurn (D. BUTLER, op. cit., p. 133). 

2 On the history of the Te Deum, see the work of D. CAGIN, Te Deum OH Illatw f 

156 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Abbot, because he held in the monastery the place of Christ, himself 
read the words of Christ. But, though he alone was reader, the com 
munity joined him in the unanimous profession of faith with which 
the reading ended. Some liturgists think the passage chosen from the 
Gospel was the one which was proper to the Sunday or feast and sung 
at the Mass of the day. 

As soon as the Gospel is ended the Abbot intones the hymn 2V decet 
laus, which is found in the seventh book of the Apostolic Constitutions. 
But what is the " blessing " of which our Holy Father next speaks ? 
We know, from the evidence of documents such as the Apostolic Con 
stitutions and the Peregrinatio Eucheritf, that the principal liturgical 
offices ended with litanies and prayers for all the needs of the 
faithful, with a prayer by the bishop, accompanied or followed by his 
blessing, and finally with the formula of dismissal. The words of 
St. Benedict recall all these usages. In speaking of the end of Offices 
he sometimes mentions the supplicatio litanue, id est Kyrie Eleison 
(IX., XIII.), litanieE (XII.); sometimes simply the benedictio (XL); 
sometimes Kyrie eleison et misses sint (XVII.); sometimes litanice et 
Oratio dominie a et fiant misscz (ibid.) ; for Compline finally : Kyrie eleison 
et benedictio et misscz fiant (ibid.); in Chapter LXVII. he writes: "At 
the last prayer of the Work of God let a commemoration be always 
made of the absent." In these various passages our Holy Father is 
alluding to well-known rites and does not think it necessary to be more 
precise. Perhaps he intends to designate the whole conclusion of an 
Office by citing only one of the elements which composed it, the Litany 
for example, or the blessing; or perhaps for St. Benedict the blessing 
which ends Vigils is merely a Collect or a developed Benedicamus Domino - 1 
As to the term missa, it has in old writers many meanings, though these 
are very closely related : it signifies the dismissal of the faithful, the formula 
by which this was effected, the whole body of prayers which completed 
a liturgical function, the canonical Office itself, and finally the Mass. 
Our Holy Father, like Cassian, uses the word missce in various senses : 2 
sometimes it is synonymous with completum est (it is finished), some 
times perhaps it means the prayers which conclude the Office, and 
finally it signifies the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (Chapters XXXV., 
XXXVIIL, and LX.). 3 

" And after the blessing has been given let them begin Lauds," 
yet with that parvissimum intervallum (very small interval) between 
the Night Office and the first Office of the day spoken of in the eighth 

1 D. PLACID DE MEESTER puts forward the hypothesis that this blessing, as also 
the one before the lessons, was a formula of praise, a blessing of God, an acclamation 
analogous to those with which, in the Greek rite, certain Offices begin, or which make the 
transition between two parts of the same Office (V Office dtcrit dam la Rlgle blntdictine 
et V office grec : Ecbos d Orient, loth year, No. 67, November, 1907, pp. 342-344). 

2 See CALMET, Commentary on Chapter XVII. 

3 Cf. D. BAUMER, Ein Beitrag zur Erklarung von Litanice und Misses in capp. 9-17 
der heiligen Regel (in Studien und Mittheilungen aus dem Benediktiner- und dem Cister- 
denser-Orden, 1886, t. II., pp. 285^.). In ST. CESARIUS and ST. AURELIAN missa still 
has the sense of a reading or lesson. 

How the Night Office is to be said on Sundays 157 

chapter. Even on Sunday, at every season, the monks could go out 
then for a moment, as the beginning of Chapter XIII. makes abundantly 
plain : " On week-days ... let the sixty-sixth psalm be said without 
an antiphon, straight on, and somewhat slowly, as on Sundays, in order 
that all may be in time for the fiftieth." 

Qui ordo Vigiliarum omni tempore, This order for the Night Office is 
tarn aestatis quam hiemis, aequaliter in always to be observed on Sunday, 
die Dominico teneatur : nisi forte (quod alike in summer and in winter, unless 
absit) tardius surgatur, quia tune ali- perchance (which God forbid) they rise 
quid de Lectionibus breviandum est, too late, in which case the lessons 
aut Responsoriis. Quod tamen omnino or responsories must be somewhat 
caveatur, ne proveniat. Quod si con- shortened. Let all care, however, 
tigerit, digne inde satisfaciat Deo in be taken that this do not happen; but, 
oratorio, per cujus evenerit neglectum. if it should, let him, through whose 

neglect it has come to pass, make 
fitting satisfaction for it to God in 
the oratory. 

This is quite plain, thanks to the explanations already given. The 
arrangement of Sunday Vigils does not vary in winter and summer. 
The hour of rising is early enough for the worthy and full performance 
of the Office before daybreak; for it must be finished by dawn. The 
quantity of the lessons themselves is fixed in advance, at least in a 
general way, by custom and the will of the Abbot. After St. Benedict s 
time we find the cantor, or some other competent person, preparing 
these lessons ; sometimes the beginning and end of the lessons are marked 
on the manuscript by a drop of wax or a finger-nail scratch; or the 
superior himself might determine the appropriate amount on the actual 
occasion; then he would impose silence on the reader by some means 
or other, by the Tu autem of which we have spoken, or sono gutturis 
(by a cough) as Charlemagne used to do. 1 

Our Holy Father foresees only one occasion when it will be necessary 
to abridge the normal amount of lessons and responses, but not the 
psalmody or the rest viz., when the signal for rising was given too late. 2 
And since Sunday required an earlier hour for rising, it was on this day 
that the mistake could be most easily made. But St. Benedict would 
have the greatest care and watchfulness used to prevent such an occur 
rence; and he binds the monk, by whose negligence Our Lord has been 
cheated of a part of the common prayer, to public penance in the oratory. 

1 De gestis Caroli Magni, 1. I., c. vii. P.L., XCVIII., 1376. 

2 A regulation analogous to St. Benedict s is indicated by ST. CESARIUS: Si vero 
evenerit ut tardius ad vigilias consurgant, singulas paginas, aut quantum Abbatisste visvm 

fuerit, legant ; in cujus potestate erit, ut quando signumfecerit, qua legit, sine mora consurgat 
(Reg. monasterii sanctce Casarice, Acta SS., Jan., 1. 1., p. 736). According to the Customs 
of Clteaux, if the monks rose too soon the cantor should see that the twelfth lesson 
was lengthened. 



At Lauds on Sunday let the sixty- 
sixth psalm first be said straight on 
without antiphon. After this let 
the fiftieth psalm be said, with an 
Alleluia, and then the hundred and 
seventeenth and the sixty-second. 
Then the Benedicite and psalms of 
praise, a lesson from the Apocalypse, 
said by heart, a responsory, a hymn, 
a versicle, a canticle out of the Gospel, 
and the litany, and so let it come to 
an end. 

NiTAs 1 AGATUR. In Matutinis Do- 
minico die, in primis dicatur sexa- 
gesimus sextus Psalmus sine Antiphona 
in directum; post quem dicatur quin- 
quagesimus cum " Alleluia." Post 
quem dicatur centesimus decimus sep- 
timus, et sexagesimus secundus; deinde 
Benedictiones et Laudes; Lectio de 
Apocalypsi una ex corde, et Respon- 
sorium, et Ambrosianum, et Versus, et 
Canticum de Evangelio, et Litaniae, et 
completum est. 

THE subject of this chapter is Sunday Lauds, and of the next 
ferial Lauds; so the title is only correct if we join the two chapters 
together, a procedure which is suggested by the opening words 
of Chapter XIII. : Diebus autem. We are already aware that what 
was known to the ancients as Matins now goes by the name of Lauds. 
This Office was instituted some centuries before St. Benedict ; it 
represents the hour of the victory of light over darkness, the hour of 
Our Lord s resurrection. Lauds is the natural complement of the 
Night Office, perhaps a double of it ; at any rate they do not seem to have 
been separated at first. With St. Benedict too, save for winter ferias 
and the " short interval " of other days, the link between the two is 
a real one: " after the blessing has been given let them begin Lauds." 2 
And at all times the preparation for Lauds is very short: perhaps it 
does not even include the Deus in adjutorium 3 and consists merely in 
the rather slow chanting of the sixty-sixth psalm, " without antiphon, 
straight on," 4 " so that all may be in time for the fiftieth " as St. Benedict 
says in the next chapter. 

The Miserere, the psalm of sorrow for sin, plays here to some extent 
the part of Invitatory ; before singing of the appearance of the pure 
light and offering the Lord a detailed praise for all His benefits, the 
soul needs to purify itself and to recognize that God alone can make 

1 Solemnitas here, as in CASSIAN (Inst., II., x.; III., iv., v., vi., etc.), is merely a 
synonym for Synaxis or Office. 

2 Cf. CASS., 75/., III., iv. This joining of the Night Office and Matutinum is found 
also in the old Ambrosian Rite: D. CAGIN, Te Deum ou Illatio ? p. 417. 

3 We should not forget, however, that our Holy Father does not always give every 
detail of the rubrics and that he sometimes abridges. See the commentary on 
Chapter XLIII. 

4 For ST. C^SARIUS also the Morning Office commences with a directaneum (Reg. 
ad mon., xxi.). Notice in this liturgy and elsewhere the presence of the Te Deum and 
Gloria in excelsis at the end of Lauds. 


How the Office of Lauds is to be said 159 

it come forth from its darkness. 1 We learn from St. Basil that this 
psalm was already recited at the same hour in his time: " When day is 
breaking, let all with one voice and one heart sing the psalm of penitence, 
each making the words of sorrow his own." 2 St. Benedict would have it 
said with Alleluia as antiphon, and perhaps, too, Alleluia was said with 
the psalms that follow. Next comes the great psalm of the resurrection, 
the hundred and seventeenth: Confitemini Domino quoniam bonu: y 
set down for Lauds also in the Rule of St. Caesarius Ad monacbos. 3 Next 
comes the sixty-second psalm; Deus, Deus meus, ad te de luce vigilo y 
very appropriate to the Morning Office, the use of which St. Benedict 
had only to borrow from monastic and other liturgies. The same is true 
of the canticle Benedicite, the " blessings " as it is called by St. Benedict 
and St. Caesarius, and of the psalms of praise (cxlviii., cxlix., cl.). 4 

A single lesson taken from the Apocalypse is recited by heart. There 
follows the responsory, doubtless a short one, the Ambrosian hymn, 
the versicle, and the canticle of the Gospel i.e., the Benedictus, chosen 
especially for the last verses : Visitavit nos Oriens ex alto, illuminare his 
qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent? Last come the " litanies " 
i.e., the Kyrie eleison and all the concluding formulas, and we are at the 
end, the dismissal. 

1 According to D. CALMET the Miserere may have been chosen because of the 
words: Domine,labia mea aperies, or because of these: exultabunt ossa humiliate, which 
recall the resurrection. 

2 Epist. ad clericos Neocasarienses, 3. P.G., XXXIL, 763-764. C/. CASS., lnst. t 
III., vi. 

3 Cap. xxi. * Cf. CASS., Inst., III., vi. 

5 " It is now generally believed, and that on good grounds, that the Magnificat was 
introduced into Vespers, as the Benedictus into Lauds, by St. Benedict " (B AUMER, 
Hist, du Brtviaire, t. I., p. 253). C/., however, D. CABROL, Dictionnaire d Arcbeologie 
chr6tienne et de Liturgie, art. Cantiques fvangeliques. 


On week-days let Lauds be cele 
brated in the following manner. Let 
the sixty-sixth psalm be said without 
an antiphon and somewhat slowly, as 
on Sundays, in order that all may be 
in time for the fiftieth, which is to be 
said with an antiphon. 

TINI AGANTUR. Diebus autem privatis 
Matutinorum solemnitas ita agatur, 
id est, sexagesimus sextus Psalmus dica- 
tur sine Antiphona in directum, sub- 
trahendo modice, sicut in Dominica, 
ut omnes occurrant ad quinquagesi- 
mum, qui cum Antiphona dicatur. 

ON weekdays which are not saints -days 1 i.e., on ordinary ferial 
days the Morning Office is celebrated as follows. The sixty- 
sixth psalm is said without an antiphon, straight on, and some 
what slowly, as on Sundays. So will all the brethren be in choir 
for the fiftieth psalm, which is part of the solemn psalmody and is not 
now said with Alleluia but with a special antiphon. These two psalms, 
with the psalms of praise of which St. Benedict speaks farther on, 
constitute the unchanging portion of the psalmody. In the next 
words we have the variable part. 

After this let two other psalms 
be said according to custom; that is, 
on Monday, the fifth and thirty- 
fifth : on Tuesday, the forty-second and 
fifty-sixth: on Wednesday, the sixty- 
third and sixty-fourth: on Thursday, 
the eighty-seventh and eighty-ninth: 
on Friday, the seventy-fifth and 
ninety-first; and on Saturday, the 
hundred and forty-second, and the 
canticle from Deuteronomy, which 
must be divided into two Glorias. 

Post quern alii duo Psalmi dicantur, 
secundum consuetudinem, id est, se- 
cunda feria, quintus, et trigesimus 
quintus. Tertia feria, quadragesimus 
secundus, et quinquagesimus sextus. 
Quarta feria, sexagesimus tertius, et 
sexagesimus quartus. Quinta feria, 
octogesimus Septimus, et octogesimus 
nonus. Sexta feria, septuagesimus 
quintus, et nonagesimus primus. Sab- 
bato autem, centesimus quadragesimus 
secundus, et Canticum Deuteronomii, 
quod dividatur in duas " Glorias." 

Every day, after the Miserere, two psalms are to be said " according 
to custom." What is this custom ? Is it a monastic custom current 
at Monte Cassino, or the custom of local churches, or Ambrosian custom, 
or Roman, such as is mentioned in reference to the canticles ? We have 
no means of knowing. Nor do we know whether our Holy Father has 
taken the particular two psalms, as well as the practice of using two 
psalms, from the custom. However, he probably took over bodily this 
group of eleven psalms, chosen here and there in the psalter. But what 
was the original reason for their choice ? 2 On Monday we have the fifth : 

1 The expression diebus privatis occurs also in the Or do psalmodice Lirinensis. 

2 " A judicious person, who has given serious reflection to the matter," says D. 
CALMET, " thinks that St. Benedict wished to put at the first Day Hour psalms which 
speak of light and morning, and which are connected with the resurrection." 


How Lauds are to be said on Weekdays \ 6 1 

Verb a mea, and the thirty-fifth : Dixit injustus ; on Tuesday the forty- 
second: Judica me Deus, and the fifty-sixth: Miserere met, Deus, 
miserere mei ; on Wednesday the sixty-third: Exaudi Deus, orationem 
meam, and the sixty-fourth : 1e decet hymnus ; on Thursday the eighty- 
seventh: Domine, Deus salutis mea, and the eighty-ninth: Domine, 
refugium factus es nobis ; on Friday, the seventy-fifth: Notus in Jud&a 
Deus, and the ninety-first : Bonum est confiteri Domino ; on Saturday, 
the hundred and forty-second : Domine, exaudi orationem meam, auribus 
percipe. In the Roman breviary, before the reform of Pius X., there 
were at Lauds each day, after the Miserere, a single special psalm and a 
canticle; the canticles were the same in the two liturgies; one of the 
psalms indicated by St. Benedict for each feria was present and still 
remains on the same days in the Roman breviary, with this difference 
that in the Roman breviary psalms cxlii. and xci. belong respectively 
to Friday and Saturday. 

A single psalm is assigned to Saturday, because of the unusual 
length of the canticle from Deuteronomy appointed for this day. 
The canticle was divided into two Glorias, which means that it was 
divided into two portions each followed by the doxology Gloria ; the 
first part of the canticle took the place of one of the customary two 
psalms and the second part was the canticle itself. This leads St. 
Benedict to speak about the canticle. 

Nam ceteris diebus, Canticum But on the other days let canticles 
unumquodque die suo ex Prophetis, from the prophets be said, each on 
sicut psallit Ecclesia Romana, dicatur. its proper day, according to the prac- 
Post haec sequantur Laudes; deinde tice of the Roman Church. Then 
Lectio una Apostoli memoriter reci- let the psalms of praise follow, and 
tanda, Responsorium, Ambrosianum, after them a lesson from the Apostle, 
Versus, Canticum de Evangelio, Lita- to be said by heart, the responsory, 
nia, et completum est. the hymn, the versicle, the canticle 

out of the Gospel, the litany, and so 


Canticles are to be recited every day, not on Saturday only, and they 
are not to be the same each day, but each of the ferias is to have its 
own canticle, taken, like Saturday s canticle, from the repertory of the 
Roman Church. The Abbot had to determine the canticles of the third 
nocturn of Sundays, since the Roman Church used only psalms at the 
Night Office: and he could not take from it what it did not possess. 
But every day at Lauds it had a canticle taken from the prophets (ex 
prophetis in a broad sense) ; and St. Benedict in this matter adopts the 
custom and probably too the designation of the Roman Church. As 
D. Baumer remarks, only a few churches of the West had adopted the 
Eastern custom of numerous canticles, and the introduction of this 
practice by St. Benedict " was, at least for the monks, something of 
a novelty." 1 While Sunday has the " blessings " of the Three Children, 

1 Op. cit., t. I., p. 249. Cf. pp. 179 ff. D. CABROL, Dictionnaire <T Archtologie 
chretienne et de Liturgie, art. Cantiques. 


1 62 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Monday has the canticle of the twelfth chapter of Isaias; Tuesday the 
canticle of Ezechias; Wednesday the canticle of Anna; Thursday the 
canticle of Moses after the passage of the Red Sea; Friday the canticle 
of Habacuc; and Saturday that of Deuteronomy, in which Moses 
traces, before dying, the past and future history of Israel. After these 
canticles come the psalms of praise; then the short lesson taken from the 
Apostle St. Paul and recited by memory, the short responsory, the Am- 
brosian hymn, the versicle, the canticle from the Gospel, otherwise the 
Bene die tits, the litany, and so the Office ends. 

Plane agenda Matutina vel Ves- The Office of Lauds and Vespers, 

pertina non transeat aliquando, nisi however, must never conclude with- 

ultimo per ordinem Oratio Dominica, out the Lord s Prayer being said 

omnibus audientibus, dicatur a priore, aloud by the superior, so that all may 

propter scandalorum spinas, quae oriri hear it, on account of the thorns of 

solent, ut conventi per ipsius Orationis scandal which are wont to arise; so 

sponsionem, qua dicunt: Dimitte nobis that the brethren, by the covenant 

debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus which they make in that prayer when 

debitoribus nostris, purgent se ab hujus- they say, " Forgive us our trespasses, as 

modi vitio. Ceteris vero agendis, we forgive them that trespass against 

ultima pars ejus Orationis dicatur, ut us," may cleanse themselves of such 

ab omnibus respondeatur : Sed liber a faults. But at the other Offices let 

nos a malo. the last part only of the prayer be 

said aloud, so that all may answer: 
" But deliver us from evil." 

In prescribing the litany as the conclusion of the Office, our Holy 
Father most probably intends by that a whole complex of prayers 
of which the Paternoster was part; but he is anxious to make a formal 
and precise rule, peculiar to the monastic Office, for the liturgical use 
of the Paternoster. The rule which he lays down is to be invariable, 
and we see at once what store he set by it: Plane (i.e., certe, omnino) 
agenda Matutina vel Fes-pertina non transeat aliquando . . . (The 
Office of Lauds and Vespers must never conclude without the Lord s 
Prayer). There is no need to speak here of the beauty of this prayer, 
the most venerable and complete of all prayers, preserving ever in each 
of its petitions the divine unction that came to it from the lips of Our 
Lord. 1 From the earliest days of the Church it had its privileged 
place in private Christian prayer; the Didache bids everyone recite it 
three times a day, morning, noon, and night, at the traditional hours of 
Jewish prayer. It also had its place early in public prayer; 2 and numer 
ous texts mention its solemn recitation at the Offices, both before our 
Holy Father and in his time. 3 The Council of Girone in A.D. 517 
decreed: " That everyday, after morning and evening Office, the Lord s 
Prayer be said by the priest." 4 St. Benedict also requires that no 

1 CASS., Conlat., IX., xviii. sq. 

2 Cf. F. H. CHASE, The Lord s Prayer in the Early Church, In the series Texts and 

3 See, for instance, the description of a service at Mt. Sinai in a document of the 
sixth century printed by D. PiTRAj^wm eccles. Gracorum hist, et momim., 1. 1., p. 220. 

* Can. x. MANSI, t. VIII., col. 550. 

How Lauds are to be said on Weekdays 163 

celebration 1 of Lauds or Vespers should take place without the Lord s 
Prayer being recited at the end in its entirety by the president of the 
assembly, in the hearing of all the monks. 

From the words of the Paternoster which are cited in the Rule, and 
from the explanation furnished by our Holy Father himself, we see 
clearly the special motive of this public recitation in choir. Undoubt 
edly it gave souls a special opportunity, at a time when some traces of 
Pelagianism still survived almost everywhere, for examination of con 
science, for disavowal and sorrow, and made them put their trust in 
God alone for the escaping evil and temptation; 2 but St. Benedict has a 
different end in view. Even in communities which are united in all 
fraternal charity, little wounds may be caused, often without evil intent 
and from mere diversity of temperament. And these wounds, for all 
their triviality, yet when touched by thought or word may grow sore 
and fester. But they vanish when we find in God s goodness towards 
us a supernatural motive for charity towards our brethren. To use 
St. Benedict s simile, the thorns of scandal, which occasionally spring 
up in monasteries, then disappear. The petition of the Paternoster : 
" Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive " is a reciprocal contract, an 
engagement we enter into with Our Lord (sponsio) . 3 Instead of imitating 
those Christians of whom Cassian writes: " When this prayer is sung in 
church by the whole people, they pass over this part in silence, doubtless 
that they may not seem to bind themselves . . .," 4 the children of St. 
Benedict must take these words to themselves, let themselves be arraigned 
(convenire) and tried by them : they pronounce their own condemnation 
if they do not pardon one another and make reconciliation (convenire 
in another sense). 

This solemn recitation of the Lord s Prayer shall take place only at 
the beginning and end of the day. At other Offices, ceteris vero agendis, 
only the last words are to be said aloud: Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, 
so that all may answer: sed liber a nos a malo. Even in this less solemn 
form one might have opportunity to put one s soul into harmony with 
the thought of God, and to group in one prayer the intentions of all. 

1 Agenda means an Office, a portion of the Work of God. 

2 Cf. S. AUG., Epist. CLVIL, CLXXVI., CLXXVIIL P.L., XXXIIL, 674, 762, 

3 Adjunxit plane et addidit (Dominus) legem, certa nos conditione et sponsione con- 
stringens, ut sic nobis dimitti debita postulemus secundum quod et ipsi debitortbus nostris 
dimittimus, scientes impetrari non posse quod propeccatis petimus, nisi et ipsi circa debitor es 
nostros paria fecerimus (S. CYPRIANI De Oral, Domin^ xxiii. P.L., IV., 535). 

4 Conlat., IX., xxii. 



IN NATALITIIS SANCTORUM QUALITER On the Festivals of Saints, and all 

VIGILIJE AGANTUR. In Sanctorum vero other solemnities, let the Office be 

festivitatibus, vel omnibus solemnita- ordered as we have prescribed for 

tibus, sicut diximus Dominico die Sundays: except that the psalms, 

agendum, ita agatur, excepto quod antiphons, and lessons suitable to the 

Psalmi, aut Antiphonse vel Lectiones day are to be said. Their quantity, 

ad ipsum diem pertinentes dicantur. however, shall remain as we have 

Modus autem supradictus teneatur. appointed above. 

OF the three kinds of Offices : ferial, Sunday, and festive, our Holy 
Father has now determined the first two, in what concerns 
Vigils and Lauds; a few lines are enough in which to regulate 
the festive Office, since it is like the Office of Sunday. The 
title of the chapter would restrict the similarity to Vigils only, but this 
is perhaps wrong, since St. Benedict expresses himself in general terms, 
without distinguishing between Vigils and Lauds; nor does he say any 
more on peculiarities of the festive Office in the Day Hours; and the 
Night Office needed especially this determination of the modus that is, 
the quantity of psalmody and lesson. We may regret St. Benedict s 
extreme brevity, all the more because we have insufficient information 
from other sources concerning the festive Office among monks of that 

For the feasts de tempore, the solemnities which commemorated the 
mysteries of Our Lord s life : such as Easter, Christmas, the Epiphany, etc. 
(St. Benedict probably means these by the words: vel omnibus solemni- 
tatibus), the monastic calendar was from the first adapted to the calendar 
used by secular churches. The same was not the case with the feasts 
of the saints. It is true that some, such as the feasts of SS. Peter 
and Paul, St. Stephen, SS. James and John, St. Andrew, St. John 
the Baptist, etc., were at an early date common to all Christians; 
but in primitive times the feasts of martyrs and those of confessors 
(of somewhat later origin) were not celebrated except in the churches 
with which they were locally connected, or where there was at least 
some special local reason for their observance. 1 Monastic churches, 
being generally without such traditions, had few natales (Saints -days) 
to commemorate; and this is undoubtedly the explanation of the silence 
of the ancient Eastern Rules in this matter. Sometimes the monks 
would leave their solitudes in order to keep the feast of a martyr with 
the clergy and the faithful; and it was in this way that the pilgrim 
Eucheria had (at Charra in Mesopotamia) the unexpected joy of meet- 
ng and conversing with all the monks of that district, who had to meet 

* Cj. H. DELEGATE, S.J., Le$ Origines du culte des martyrs, chap, iii., pp. 109^. 


How the Night Office is to be said on Saints -I) ays 165 

there in order to keep the anniversary of the martyr-monk Helpidius : 
" They told me," she writes, " that except at Easter and on this day 
they did not leave their retreats." 1 In the Rule of St. Caesarius edited 
by the Bollandists there are special liturgical provisions, not only for 
Sundays and ordinary days (privatis diebus), but also for Easter, Christ 
mas, the Epiphany, solemnities, " all feast-days," and especially for feasts 
of martyrs: " When feasts of martyrs are being celebrated, let the first 
lesson be read from the Gospels, the rest from the Acts of the Martyrs." 2 

So the monastic calendar was enriched little by little and copied 
the calendar of secular churches, which, moreover, were sometimes served 
by monks or had a monastery close to them. If our Holy Father was 
no conspicuous innovator in what concerns the cultus of the saints, he 
has at least secured it an honoured and regular place in the monastic 
liturgy. We know from St. Gregory that, when he took possession of 
Monte Cassino, St. Benedict dedicated an oratory to St. John the Baptist 
and another to St. Martin of Tours; and he makes us pronounce our 
vows before the relics of the saints, who are invoked as solemn witnesses. 

On the feasts of saints and on all solemnities, the Work of God, 
(agendum, ita agatur) is to be performed in the same manner as has been 
laid down previously for Sunday i.e., at every season three nocturns, 
twelve lessons, twelve responsories. But St. Benedict adds a clause which 
limits and lessens the likeness of the festive Office to that of Sunday: 
it is to have its own psalms, antiphons, and lessons (we may note that 
there is no question of responsories or hymns). Long discussions have 
arisen among commentators as to the interpretation of the words: 
ad tpsum diem pertinentes (belonging to the day itself). Does this mean 
the psalms, antiphons, and lessons of the feria, or rather psalms, anti 
phons, and lessons specially assigned to the feast ? Calmet holds the first 
opinion; D. Mege is decidedly in favour of the second; Martene, while 
recognizing the strength of the arguments adduced by the supporters of 
the latter view, leaves everyone free to estimate their value and comes to 
no decision. 

Grammatically the text will bear either interpretation, so we must 
seek a solution elsewhere. St. Benedict, in the eighteenth chapter, 
requires of all his disciples the integral recitation of the whole psalter 
in a week; and he does not mean any hundred and fifty psalms, but the 
hundred and fifty psalms of the psalter. Now, this could only be achieved 
if at the Vigils of saints the psalms of the corresponding feria were recited. 
To those who answer that " St. Benedict was speaking conditionally, 
on the hypothesis that no feast-day would occur during the week," 
Calmet replies that " with such suppositions an author may be made 
to say anything." For St. Benedict the psalmody is the immovable 
framework of the Divine Office, and, though he leaves the Abbot free 
to arrange the psalter in some better way, yet, as we may repeat, he 
wishes the whole psalter to be recited each week. The festive character 

1 Peregrinatio ad loca sancta, ed. GAMURRINI, 1888, pp. 38-39* 

2 Acta SS., Jan., 1. 1., pp. 735-736- 

1 66 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

was sufficiently asserted by the special plan of the Office, copied from 
the Sunday, and by certain proper prayers. Again, do not the Little 
Hours now keep their psalmody unchanged even on feast-days, and has 
not the recent reform of the Roman Breviary combined the ferial and 
festal Office ? However, as Calmet remarks, we cannot seek arguments 
in favour of one or the other interpretation of the text in customs 
subsequent to St. Benedict, albeit very ancient, nor in more recent 
ecclesiastical or monastic legislation. 

Against those who understand the words ad i-psum diem of the 
current feria, the following objection is urged: St. Benedict speaks in 
the same way of the psalms as of the antiphons and lessons, enumerating 
these elements without distinction : we may infer, therefore, that their 
condition is the same. Now it seems clear that on feast-dayi neither 
the antiphons of the psalter nor the lessons of the feria could be said: 
for on f erias in winter there are only three lessons, and only one in summer, 
while the festive Office demands twelve; moreover, there are antiphons 
properly so called only in the first nocturn, while the festive Office requires 
them for both nocturns; therefore the ferial psalms were no more said 
than were the antiphons and lessons of the same feria. Calmet in reply 
contests the minor; " the lessons will be taken," he says, " from the same 
books as the ferial lessons came from, only instead of three there will be 
twelve; for antiphons either the antiphons of the same feria will be 
taken, or they will be drawn from a general antiphonary; and the same 
with the responsories. There would be a book containing a store of all 
these things, for it is impossible to doubt that, in St. Benedict s time 
and after, there were psalters, lectionaries, antiphonaries, and collections 
of responsories. . . ." One might allow that the lessons, like the 
canticles, perhaps also like the antiphons, were in fact proper to the feast 
and assigned by usage and the will of the Abbot, and maintain that the 
psalms did not necessarily go with the other elements among which they 
are enumerated. Then by this clause St. Benedict would have wished 
simply to distinguish the festal from the Sunday liturgy, each of these 
elements being arranged as best suited it. Unfortunately, in this 
explanation, the phrase ad ipsum diem has an indeterminate or rather 
a double sense, since at one time it means the feria, at another the feast. 

Perhaps it would be better to admit that psalms, antiphons, and 
lessons were proper to the feast. That was the case in the liturgies 
of Milan and Rome which were known to St. Benedict; our Common 
Offices of saints, at least the Office for martyrs, were originally proper 
Offices. Eucheria remarks with interest that the church of Jerusalem 
adapted the liturgical texts to the mystery of the day: "Among all 
else this that they do is especially noteworthy: the psalms and antiphons 
are always appropriate, both those said at Vigils and those of the Morning 
Office; likewise those said during the day or at Sext and None and even 
tide ; all are so apt and significant that they suit the occasion." 1 Accord 
ing to the Rule for the monastery of St. Caesaria, as we have seen, 

1 Peregrinatio, p. 50. 

How the Night Office is to be said on Saints -Days 1 67 

certain lessons were taken from the Acts of the Martyrs whose feast was 
being celebrated; in the same document is contained the following 
ordinance: " On all feast-days at the twelfth hour the psalms of the 
third hour are to be said and three antiphons added, but the lessons are 
to be said of the matter in hand, that is of the feast-day itself." Is it 
not reasonable enough to think that our Holy Father adopted a similar 
practice ? And he could prescribe a festal psalmody without sacrificing 
the great principle of the eighteenth chapter concerning the weekly 
recitation of the psalter, since feast-days were then exceptional and quite 
rare. He concludes by laying it down that the form of the festal Office, 
its general plan, the number and arrangement of its parts, should be the 
same as in the Sunday Office, whatever might be the feast or day on 
which it fell and its proper parts. So at the beginning a festal Office 
of three lessons was unknown. 



From the holy feast of Easter until 
Pentecost, without interruption, let 
Alleluia be said both with the psalms 
and the responsories. From Pente 
cost until the beginning of Lent, it 
is to be said every night at the Night 
Office with the second six psalms 
only. But on every Sunday out of 
Lent let the canticles, Lauds, Prime, 
Terce, Sext, and None be said with 
Alleluia. Vespers, however, with 
antiphons. The responsories are never 
to be said with Alleluia, except from 
Easter to Pentecost. 

DICATUR. A sancto Pascha usque ad 
Pentecosten, sine intermissione dicatur 
" Alleluia," tam in Psalmis quam in 
Responsoriis. A Pentecoste usque ad 
caput Quadragesima^, omnibus noc- 
tibus, cum sex posterioribus Psalmis 
tantum ad Nocturnos dicatur. Omni 
vero Dominica extra Quadragesimam, 
Cantica, Matutini, Prima, Tertia, 
Sexta Nonaque cum " Alleluia " dican- 
tur. Vespera vero cum Antiphonis. 
Responsoria vero nunquam dicantur 
cum " Alleluia," nisi a Pascha usque 
ad Pentecosten. 

CHAPTERS XIV. and XV. complete the arrangement of the Night 
Office, and with them we pass to the Day Offices; they treat 
of matters which concern both Vigils and the liturgy of the day. 
Our Holy Father devoted a special article to Alleluia, not merely 
dignitatis causa and out of respect for this glad cry so dear to souls in 
every age 1 and found, along with Amen, even in the liturgy of eternity; 
but rather and chiefly in order to regulate and extend its use. St. 
Benedict has it sung every day in the year except in Lent; in this we are 
far from the rigorism of the heresiarch Vigilantius, so vigorously trounced 
by St. Jerome, who would have kept Alleluia for the feast of Easter 

From Easter to Pentecost Alleluia must be said in the psalms and 
responsories, sine intermissione (without interruption). To understand 
the precise meaning of this phrase we must attend very carefully to the 
arrangements which follow and remember how St. Benedict in other 
chapters regulates the use of antiphons and Alleluia. During the whole 
of paschal time Alleluia is said at all responsories, both on Sundays and 
during the week. And in the psalmody there is no other antiphon but 
Alleluia, at the Night Office as well as at the Day Office, on Sundays 
as well as on ferias. 

During the whole period from Pentecost to the beginning of Lent 
(there is no question yet of Septuagesima), on ferial days, Alleluia shall 
be said only at the six psalms of the second nocturn, as an antiphon. 
On these same days, at Lauds, Little Hours, and Vespers, the psalmody 
is interspersed with antiphons and not with Alleluia. 

1 See the account of the Alleluia in the Dictionnaires de la Bible, de Tbfologie, and 
Arcbtologie cbrttienne et de Liturgit. 

1 68 

At what Times of the Tear " Alleluia " is to be said 169 

Sunday is in some sort a repetition of Easter-day: so Alleluia shall 
be used each Sunday, except in Lent, at nearly all the Hours: it shall 
be used for the canticles of the third nocturn, for the fiftieth psalm (and 
perhaps for those that follow) of Lauds, for the psalms of Prime, Terce, 
Sext, and None. But Vespers shall have antiphons and not use Alleluia. 

As regards responsories, they shall be said with Alleluia only during 
paschal time. Our Holy Father makes no mention of adding Alleluia 
to certain versicles and antiphons, as is now done, but only to psalms 
and responsories : tarn in -psalmis quam in responsoriis. 




AGANTUR. Ut ait Propheta: Septies in 
die laudem dixi tibi. Qui septenarius 
sacratus numerus a nobis sic implebi- 
tur, si Matutini, Primae, Tertiae, Sex- 
tae, Nonae, Vesperi, Completoriique 
tempore, nostrae servitutis officia per- 
solvamus. Quia de his Horis dixit 
Propheta: Septies in die laudem dixi 
tibi. Nam de Nocturnis Vigiliis idem 
ipse Propheta ait : Media nocte surgebam 
ad confitendum tibi. Ergo his tempori- 
bus referamus laudes Creatori nostro 
super judicia justitiae suae, id est, Matu- 
tinis, Prima, Tertia, Sexta, Nona, 
Vespera, Completorio, et nocte surga- 
mus ad confitendum ei. 

As the prophet saith: "Seven 
times in the day I have given praise 
to thee." And we shall observe this 
sacred number of seven if, at the times 
of Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, 
Vespers, and Compline, we fulfil the 
duties of our service. For it was 
of these Hours that he said: " Seven 
times in the day have I given praise 
to thee"; just as the same prophet 
said of the Night Office: "At mid 
night I arose to give thee praise." At 
these times, therefore, let us sing the 
praises of our Creator for the judge 
ments of His justice: that is, at Lauds, 
Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, 
and Compline: and at night let us 
arise to praise Him. 

WE now pass to the hours of the day in the strict sense, Lauds 
being only the conclusion of the Night Office, or the Office 
of dawn and morning. But, before fixing their content, 
St. Benedict desired to enumerate them clearly and to sum 
up the moments of the day and night when the monks devote themselves 
to the Work of God. However, he has already mentioned all the Hours 
except Compline, though only cursorily. So a more accurate title for 
the chapter might be : How many Offices there are in a day (of twenty- 
four hours). 

We are not called upon to write the history of the Day Hours any 
more than was St. Benedict. Lauds and Vespers are the most ancient 
and the most solemn: " In the first half of the fourth century they were 
celebrated daily in public." 1 They were represented among the Jews 
by the morning and evening sacrifice; for the Jews had three traditional 
times for prayer: morning, noon (Sext and None), and evening. Several 
passages of the Acts show us the Apostles and their disciples praying at 
the hours that the Jews prayed in the Temple and the synagogues. 
We have already had occasion to observe that the Didacbe bade the 
faithful recite the Lord s Prayer three times a day. Whether our Hours 
of Terce, Sext, and None are connected or not 2 with this Christian 
practice, itself imitated from Jewish custom, it is certain that as early as 
the second century the three Hours of prayer are urged by Clement 
of Alexandria on all " those who appreciate the trinity of the holy 

D. BAUMER, op. cit. y 1. 1., p. 82. 

2 Ibid., p. ;6, note 


How the Work of God is to be done in the Day-time 1 7 1 

mansions." 1 Tertullian is more explicit and gives mystical reasons for 
the choice. 2 But originally, it would seem, the chief idea was to address 
God at the three principal divisions of the civil day. The day was 
divided into twelve hours, calculated from sunrise to sunset, the sixth 
hour always corresponding to what we call midday; but only at the 
equinoxes did the third and ninth hours correspond to our 9 a.m. 
and 3 p.m. The end of the twelfth hour marked sunset; the 
"evening star," Vesper, appeared: and this was the hour of Vespers, 
Lucernarium, or lamp-lighting time; then began the first watch of the 
night. 3 To get Terce, Sext, and None into his scheme, our Holy Father 
had only to conform to a usage that had become practically universal 
and in particular to remember what St. Basil 4 and Cassian 6 had written 
about these Hours. 

The Office of Prime dates from the time of Cassian, who relates 
its origin. 6 The researches of Pere Pargoire have established the fact 
that Prime became a canonical Hour about the year 382 or 390 at the 
latest, and that it was instituted in a monastery at Bethlehem, not 
St. Jerome s. At Bethlehem, as in other monasteries, Lauds were said 
almost immediately after Matins, even in winter, without waiting for 
dawn; and, as a consequence, the brethren were allowed to lie down 
again until daybreak. But " the lazy abused this permission : since 
there was no community exercise to force them to leave their cells, 
instead of rising to work with hand or brain until the Hour of Terce, 
they formed the habit of waiting quietly in their beds for the signal to this 
Office. So there was a reform, and the elders decided that the custom 
of going to bed after the Night Office should continue, but that at 
sunrise, when work became possible, the community should assemble 
for the recitation of Prime." 7 This Hour is a double of the Morning 
Office, alter a matutina, and psalms taken from Lauds were recited at it; 8 
it is a morning prayer which perhaps all those might dispense with who 
chanted Lauds at daybreak, incipiente luce. However, as Cassian tells us, 
it was adopted almost everywhere: " It is now celebrated in the West 

1 Stromat., 1. VIL, c. vii. P.G., IX., 456-457. 

2 De Oratione, c. xxiii.-xxv. P.L., I., 1191-1193. 

3 When Vigils were to last the whole night (iravv\)\is} it was very natural to regard 
the Lucernarium as their prelude; and that is why some ancient sources look on 
Vespers as belonging to the Night Office. ST. BASIL (Reg. fus., xxxvii. De Spiritu 
Sancto, Ixxiii. P.G., XXXII., 205) speaks of the ev^a/norta of the Evening Office; also 
ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, De Vita sancta Macrina. P.G., XL VI., 985. C/. Apostolical 
Constitutions, 1. VIII. , c. xxxiv.-xxxvii. P.G., I., 1135-1140. This name " Evening 
Eucharist " is very suggestive. It is clear, in fact, that the Lucernarium of the early 
centuries often had its Agape or non-sacramental Eucharist, accompanied by alleluia 
psalms and followed, on certain days, by the sacramental Eucharist. Things were 
so done, in the same order and at the same hour, at the Last Supper. 

4 Reg. f us., xxxvii. 5 Inst., III., iii. B Ibid., iv. 

7 PARGOIRE, Prime et Complies, in the Revue (Thist. et de litter, religieuses, 1898, 
pp. 281-288. 

8 CASS., Inst., III., vi. The Matutina nostra solemnitas, of which Cassian speaks 
at the end of chap, iii., is Prime and not Lauds. He never calls this new Office Prime. 
Prime is mentioned under this name in the Rule of ST. CESARIUS given by the Bollan- 

172 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

especially," by which we must understand the Western monasteries, for 
secular churches were slower to adopt it. 

The institution of the Hour of Compline (Completorium), which 
completes the Work of God, has often been attributed to St. Benedict; 
but our Holy Father has no need of other credit than that to which he 
is historically entitled. Perhaps the name is his ; undoubtedly the spread 
of this Hour was due to its inclusion in the Benedictine scheme; un 
doubtedly also it is due to our Holy Father s initiative that Vespers 
became a day Hour and Compline took the place of the Lucernarium 
(Chapters XLL, XLII.): but there are at least two pieces of evidence 
in favour of the existence of Compline before St. Benedict; and Pere 
Pargoire is of opinion that these texts certainly imply a special canonical 
Hour and not a simple evening prayer, or private devotional exercise. 1 
St. Basil, enumerating the official hours of prayer, says that when the day 
is finished and complete (ffv/JbTTXrjpayOeia-ij^ Se TT}? rjfjiepas) a ev^apicrria 
(thanksgiving) was celebrated for all benefits received and pardon 
asked for all faults or errors committed: by this he means Vespers. 
Then he goes on : " Kal ird\iv TT}? Z/U/CTO? dp^o/ievr)?. . . . And again, 
when the night begins, we ask for sleep free from faults and evil dreams, 
by the recitation without fail of the ninetieth psalm [already used at 
Sext]." 2 The second piece of evidence is this : Callinicus, the disciple 
and biographer of St. Hypatius (t June 30, 446), hegumenos (superior) 
of the monastery of Rufinianes, at " The Oak " near Chalcedon 
where St. John Chrysostom was condemned, narrates that his hero 
lived in seclusion during Lent, but did not fail to recite the Morning 
Office, Terce, Sext, None, Lucernarium, then the TrpwOinrvia (the 
Office which precedes the first sleep), and finally the Midnight Office; in 
this way, adds the biographer, he fulfilled in the course of each day the 
words : " Seven times in the day have I given praise to thee for the 
judgements of thy justice." 3 

St. Benedict also is anxious to achieve, in the number of the Hours, 
the sacred total of seven. He does so, thanks to Prime, in the day itself, 
while St. Hypatius had to include the Night Office; so with St. Benedict 
dies (day) means the space between sunrise and sunset, while for 
St. Hypatius it is the whole liturgical day (vvx^wepov). Cassian, 
who did not know Compline but counted Prime among the Hours, 
arrives at the number seven by including the Night Office; and he 
remarks that one of the advantages of the institution of the " second 
morning office " was just this realization to the letter of the words of 
David: "That number, which blessed David gives, though it have 
also a spiritual sense, is thus manifestly fulfilled according to the letter : 
Seven times in the day have I given praise to thee for the judgements 
of thy justice. For by adding this Hour and so having these spiritual 
assemblies seven times in the day, we plainly praise God seven times 
a day." 4 Our Holy Father probably remembered this passage; but 

1 Op- cit., pp. 456-467. 2 Reg.fus., xxxvii. 

3 Acta SS.y Junii, t. III., p. 325. * Inst.> III., iv. 

How the Work of God is to be done in the Day-time 173 

since in his arrangement the number of Hours exceeded seven, he adds 
at once that the Prophet was there speaking only of the Day Hours, 
and alluded to the Night Office in another passage of the same hundred 
and eighteenth psalm. Therefore Holy Scripture itself summons us 
to praise our Creator seven times a day and once in the night. 1 To 
this are we bound as monks and as workmen of prayer : nostr<z scrvitutis 
officta persolvamus. 

More than this was achieved formerly: in very populous monasteries 
it was natural to organize the Work of God in such a way that choirs of 
monks relieved one another from hour to hour and the work of praise 
ceased neither day nor night. At St. Maurice of Agaune, for instance, 
at the beginning of the sixth century, we find the Laus perennis (perpetual 
praise). 2 And when monastic devotion could not adopt continuous 
psalmody, it often added various Offices to the pensum servitutis 
(meed of service) prescribed by St. Benedict, and the rubrics of our 
Breviary still mention on certain days the recitation of the Gradual 
Psalms, of the Penitential Psalms, and of the Office of the Dead. With 
out misconceiving the intention which dictated these practices, we may 
be allowed to remark that our Holy Father purposely abridged the 
liturgy of his predecessors and that he arranged the content of the Hours 
in a more discreet and wiser fashion. Does Our Lord gain much by an 
ever-increasing accumulation of prayers and new Offices ? We must 
leave ourselves breathing-space. The generous must have the oppor 
tunity of doing something spontaneously and quite wU ingly. However, 
there is a form of Laus perennis which does not requLc an army of monks, 
which is open to each individual to realize: it is secret prayer, attention 
to God and the things of God, the attitude of submission and love, a 
certain constant contact with Beauty ever present. Thus, not only 
the monastery, but the soul of each monk, and the united chorus of all, 
may sing to God an unceasing song. 

1 In the first Sermo asceticus, which, if not St. Basil s, at least belongs probably to the 
fourth or fifth century, the author, like St. Benedict, cites these two texts: Media nocte 

. . and Septies . . ., but he only counts seven Hours in all: the Night Office, the 
Morning Office, Terce, None, Vespers, and, in order to get seven, divides the midday 
prayer into two: the prayer before the meal and the prayer after. P.G., XXXI., 877- 

2 Cf. Dictionnaire d Arch&ologie chretienne et de Liturgie, art. Agaune. 




DICENDI SUNT. Jam de Nocturnis, vel 
Matutinis digessimus ordinem psalmo- 
diae ; mine de sequentibus Horis videa- 
mus. Prima Hora dicantur Psalmi tres 
sigillatim, et non sub una " Gloria." 
Hymnus ejusdem Horae post Versum 
Deus in adjutorium meum intende 
antequam Psalmi incipiantur. Post 
expletionem vero trium Psalmorum, 
recitetur Lectio una, Versus, et " Kyrie 
eleison," et missas sint. 

We have already disposed the 
order of the psalmody for the Night 
Office and for Lauds: let us proceed 
to arrange for the remaining Hours. 
At Prime, let three Psalms be said, 
separately, and not under one Gloria. 
The hymn at this Hour is to follow 
the verse Deus in adjutorium before 
the psalms are begun. Then, at the 
end of the three psalms, let one lesson 
be said, with a versicle, the Kyrie 
eleison and the concluding prayer. 

WE have already, says St. Benedict, arranged the order of the 
psalmody for Vigils and Lauds; let us look now to the 
succeeding Hours. His object is to indicate the scheme 
or form of the Offices of the day, taking them in the order in 
which Jthey occur; the substance of both night and day psalmody will 
be dealt with in the next chapter. 

First we have the composition of Prime: the versicle Deus in adju 
torium, then the Gloria, as laid down at the beginning of the eighteenth 
chapter, next the hymn proper to the Hour. In the same way do the 
three succeeding Hours begin. Moreover, the psalmody of Prime and 
of these three Hours consists of three psalms. In the monasteries of 
Palestine, Mesopotamia, and all that part of the East Cassian tells us 
Terce, Sext, and None consisted every day of three psalms; 1 those who 
adopted Prime used for that Hour psalms 1., Ixii., and Ixxxix. 2 On 
Sunday, St. Benedict adds in the next chapter, Prime shall have by 
exception, not three psalms, but the first four sections of the hundred 
and eighteenth psalm. These psalms were to be said separately, each 
with its own Gloria, and not united above one Gloria, as are the last three 
psalms of Lauds. After the psalms comes a lesson, then the versicle, 
the Kyrie eleison and the misses. We have briefly indicated in an earlier 
chapter what these concluding prayers might be and the various meanings 
of the word missa? All that. part of Prime which we say in chapter 
(the martyrology, prayers for manual labour, reading of the Rule) dates 
from the eighth and ninth centuries and originated in monastic customs. 4 

Tertia vero, Sexta, et Nona, eodem Terce, Sext, and None are to be 
ordine celebretur Oratio: Versus, recited in the same way that is, the 
Hymni earundem Horarum, terni verse, the hymn proper to each Hour, 

1 Inst., III., iii. 

3 See the commentaries of MARTNE and CALMET on this chapter. 

4 Cf. D. BAUMSR, op. cit., t. I., pp. 361-362, 374-375- 


How many Psalms are to be said at these Hours 175 

Psalmi, Lectio, Versus, " Kyrie elei- three psalms, the lesson and versicle, 
son," et missse sint. Si major congre- Kyrie eleison and the concluding 
gatio fuerit, cum Antiphonis dicantur; prayer. If the community be large, 
si vero minor, in directum psallantur. let the psalms be sung with antiphons; 

but if small, let them be sung straight 


The best reading of the text for the beginning of this section is 
probably that which we have adopted, with the addition of id est (that 
is) before Versus. The prayer or portion of the Work of God which is 
celebrated at Terce, Sext, and None, is to have the same plan as Prime, 
comprising, that is to say, the verse Deus in adjutorium, a proper hymn, 
three psalms, etc. If the community is large the psalms of the four 
Little Hours shall be said with intercalated antiphons; otherwise they 
shall be said straight forward. 1 These Day Hours are brief, as was 
fitting for men who had work to do ; they are simple, so that they can be 
recited by memory, even at the scene of one s toil (Chapter L.). 

Vespertina autem synaxis quatuor Let the Vesper Office consist of 

Psalmis cum Antiphonis terminetur, four psalms with antiphons: after the 

post quos Psalmos lectio recitanda est, psalms a lesson is to be recited; then 

inde Responsorium, Ambrosianum, the responsory, the hymn and versicle, 

Versus, Canticum de Evangelio, Lita- the canticle from the Gospel, the 

niae etOratio Dominica, et riant missae. Litany and Lord s Prayer and the 

concluding prayer. 

The Vesper psalmody is shorter than was that of the ancient Lucer- 
narium, as for instance with the monks of Egypt 2 and St. Caesarius; for 
it comprises only four psalms. Likewise, instead of several long lessons, 
St. Benedict requires only one, and that probably quite short and capable 
of recitation by heart, as in the case of the Little Hours ; however, the 
reading which precedes Compline will go far to compensate. The 
psalms are to be said with antiphons. Next we have a responsory, the 
Ambrosianum (i.e., the hymn), the versicle, the canticle from the 
Gospel (i.e., the Magnificat), the litany, the Lord s Prayer, et fiant 
mis see. 

Completorium autem trium Psal- Let Compline consist of the recita- 
morum dictione terminetur, qui Psal- tion of three psalms, to be said straight 
mi directanee et sine Antiphona dicendi on without antiphons ; then the 
sunt. Post quos Hymnus ejusdem hymn for that hour, one lesson, the 
Horse, Lectio una, Versus, " Kyrie versicle, Kyrie eleison, the blessing, 
eleison " et benedictio, et missae fiant. and the concluding prayer. 

St. Benedict keeps for another place what he has to say about the 
reading which preceded Compline (Chapter XLII.); the short lesson: 
Fratres sobrii estate ... is a relic and a repetition of it in our actual 
liturgy. Compline is to consist first of three psalms without antiphons 
in the direct manner. Then comes the hymn proper to this last Hour 
of the day; so that Lauds, Vespers and Compline have their hymn after 
the psalmody. Finally there is a short lesson, a versicle, the Kyrie 
1 See the commentary on Chapter IX- CASS., Inst., II., vi. 

176 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

eleison, the blessing and the concluding prayers or dismissal. We should 
recall what little was said concerning the blessing in Chapter XL, where 
St. Benedict spoke of the blessing at the end of Vigils: " And after the 
blessing has been given, let them begin Lauds." So the Night Office 
and the Day Hours end in the same manner. Let us remember also 
that in the ancient service the dismissal of the catechumens or of the 
faithful was only pronounced after a series of prayers in which the 
deacon and the bishop enumerated the intentions of all, and formulated 
the desires and sentiments of the assembly; after which the bishop 
gave his blessing. It is probable that at the end of Vigils and of Com 
pline the Abbot too blessed all his children and accompanied the action 
with a formula of his own choice or one predetermined. 1 Monastic 
custom has preserved the blessing of Compline and given it a real 
importance. No one should be absent at that moment; it is an act of 
communion with brethren and Abbot ; and the blessing should be 
carried to those in the monastery who cannot be present to receive it. 
Commentators enquire why our Holy Father says nothing about 
Mass, though it is the culminating point of the liturgy. We may repeat 
that it was not St. Benedict s purpose to say everything: he passes over 
in silence points of ordinary ecclesiastical discipline; and, among properly 
monastic observances, he only mentions the chief, those which he adopts 
for his children and those which used to be defined by precise rules. 
He speaks elsewhere en passant of the Mass and Communion on Sunday 
and " solemn days " (Chapters XXXV., XXXVIII., LXIII.); 2 he allows 
the Abbot to have priests and deacons ordained for the religious service 
of the monastery and the officium altaris (Chapter LXIL); the Abbot 
may invite priests who embrace the monastic life to bless or to celebrate 
Mass: aut Missam tenere (Chapter LX.). Two centuries before St. 
Benedict s time, monks, like fervent Christians in the world, used to 
communicate very often and even daily; and it was not indispensable 
to do this at Mass since each individual could take the Holy Eucharist 
home with him. 3 Rufinus has preserved us this counsel of Abbot 
Apollonius: "He also advised that, if possible, monks should every day 
partake of the mysteries of Christ, lest perchance he, who should keep 
far from these, should find himself far from God." 4 The custom of 
daily Conventual Mass is very ancient, and Martene finds an example 
of it at the beginning of the fifth century in the life of St. Euthymius; 6 
it was the custom too at Cluny. 

1 The Council of Agde in 506 decreed: In conclusione matutinarum vet vesper tinarum 
missarum, post bymnos, capitella de psalmis dicantur, et plebs collectaorationead vesperam 
ab episcopo cum benedictione dimittatur (Can. xxx. MANBI, t. VIII., col. 330). 

3 CASSIAN wrote of the monks of Egypt : Die sabbato vel dominica . . . bora tertia 
sacra communionis obtentu conveniunt (Inst., III. ii.). 

8 S. BASIL., Epist. XCIII. ad Casariam patriciam. P.G., XXXIL, 484-485. 
C/. D. CHAPMAN, La Communion frtquente dans les premiers ages (Paper read at the 
nineteenth International Eucharistic Congress held at Westminster, 1908, pp. 161-168 
of the Report). D. BESSE, Les Moines d Orient, pp. 351-354; Les Maine s del Ancienne 
France, pp. 445-448. 4 Hist, monacb., c. vii. ROSWEYD, p. 464. 

5 Acta SS., Jan., t. II., p. 309. C/. MARTINI, De ant. monach. n f., 1. II., c, iv.-viii, 
CALMET, Commentary on Chapter XXXV, 


WE now know the number of the Hours and the plan of each of 
them; this long chapter is devoted by St. Benedict to the 
distribution of the psalms among the Hours of the day and 
the night. Leaving Lauds on one side, for he has fixed its 
psalmody in the thirteenth chapter, he determines successively the 
psalmody of Prime, of the three succeeding Hours, of Vespers, and of 
Compline. Since these Offices for the most part called for a special 
selection of their psalms, it was best to begin with them, while Vigils 
would share the psalms that remained. To fix the psalmody of each of 
the Hours, St. Benedict naturally follows their course throughout the 
week, and, as is natural too, begins with Sunday. The principle that 
guides this distribution of the psalter is that the whole should be 
said in the week; the same rule prevails in the Roman liturgy, 
while the Ambrosian fixes the period at two weeks. To realize this 
plan, our Holy Father had to adopt various arrangements which give 
his system of psalmody a rather complicated and perplexed character. 
He had, in fact, to take account of the traditional attribution of certain 
psalms to certain Hours, while at the same time making arrangements 
of his own, as for instance in the case of the Little Hours. 

To begin with, we may note that the Rule divides the whole 
hundred and fifty psalms into three parts. The first portion, from the 
first to the nineteenth inclusively, is devoted, with three exceptions, 
to Prime on weekdays. The second, extending from the twentieth 
to the hundred and eighth, furnishes, again with three exceptions, 
the psalmody of Vigils and Lauds. The last, extending from the 
hundred and ninth to the hundred and forty-seventh, supplies our Holy 
Father with the psalms of Vespers, of the Little Hours of Sunday, and 
of Terce, Sext, and None on the other days of the week. 

Quo oRDiNEPsALMi DiCENDi BUNT. First of all, at the Day Hours, let 
In primis, semper dmrnis Horis dicatur this verse always be said : Deus in adju- 
Versus: Deus in adjutorium meum torium meum intends, Domine ad ad- 
intende, Domine ad adjuvandum me juvandum me festina, and the Gloria; 
festina, et " Gloria." Inde Hymnus followed by the hymn proper to each 
uniuscujusque Horae. Hour. 

These few lines return briefly to the ordinary introduction to the 
psalmody of the Day Hours i.e., Prime and the three that succeed. 
The best manuscripts have not got the words: semper diurnis Horis; 
nevertheless this passage could not refer to all the Hours both of day 
and night indiscriminately, since the presence of the verse Deus in 
adjutorium at the Night Office and at Lauds is not proved; but chiefly 
because the " hymn proper to each Hour " precedes the psalmody only 
at Vigils and the Little Hours. 


178 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Deinde Prima hora, Dominica, At Prime on Sunday four parts of 

dicenda sunt quatuor capitula Psalmi the hundred and eighteenth psalm 

centesimi octavi decimi. Reliquis are to be said. At the other Hours 

vero Horis, id est, Tertia, Sexta, et that is, Terce, Sext, and None let 

Nona, terna capitula supradicti Psalmi three parts of the same psalm be said, 
centesimi octavi decimi dicantur. 

St. Benedict at once gives a privileged position to the hundred 
and eighteenth psalm. It is quite evident from the commentaries of. 
the Fathers Origen, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine that the 
longest of the psalms was also regarded as the richest in doctrine and 
the most profound: they saw in it an incomparable programme of the 
Christian life. We know that it is alphabetical: each verse of every 
eight consecutive verses commences with the same letter of the 
Hebrew alphabet; and, since there are twenty-two letters in this 
alphabet, the psalm consists of twenty-two strophes, or octonaries, which 
our Holy Father calls capitula. His intention is to apportion it among 
all the Little Hours of Sunday and the three last of Monday that is, 
between seven canonical Hours; to this purpose twenty-one of the 
octonaries are devoted, since the psalmody of these Hours normally 
contains three psalms or portions of psalms. But rather than leave 
the single remaining octonary out in the cold on Monday, St. Benedict 
chose to give four capitula to Sunday s Prime. 

Ad Primam autem secundae feriae At Prime on Monday let three 

dicantur tres Psalmi, id est, primus, Psalms be said namely, the first, 

secundus, et sextus. Etitaper singulos second, and sixth; and so in the same 

dies ad Primam, usque ad Dominicam way every day until Sunday let three 

dicantur per ordinem terni Psalmi, psalms be said at Prime in order, up 

usque ad nonum decimum Psalmum; to the nineteenth; the ninth and the 

ita sane, ut nonus Psalmus et Septimus seventeenth, however, being divided 

decimus partiantur in binas " Glorias." into two Glorias. Let it thus come 

Et sic fiat, ut ad Vigilias Dominica about that at the Night Office on 

semper a vigesimo incipiatur. Sunday we shall always begin with 

the twentieth psalm. 

We are still at Prime, but Prime of Monday. Rather than use them 
at Prime, Terce, and Sext, St. Benedict divides the last nine octonaries 
of the hundred and eighteenth psalm between Terce, Sext, and None 
of this day; for if the determination of the psalmody of the last three 
Little Hours throughout the week had to begin with None on Monday, 
some complication would ensue, at least in the exposition and in the 
text of the law. The question now, therefore, is to provide for the 
Psalmody of Prime for the week, and St. Benedict takes it quite simply 
from the beginning of the psalter. Prime of Monday shall have the 
first, second, and sixth psalms, the third psalm being reserved for the 
beginning of the Night Office, the fourth being the first psalm of 
Compline, and the fifth being consecrated by usage to Lauds of Monday. 

For each of the remaining days till Sunday three psalms are taken 
in their sequence. But since the ninth and seventeenth are more 
lengthy and there is no time at this morning Hour for long psalmody, 

In what Order the Psalms are to be said 179 

they are to be divided into two, each portion being followed by a Gloria. 
In this way the monks will be in a position to^begin the Night Office 
of Sunday regularly with the twentieth psalm. The practice of divid 
ing psalms was an old one and existed, for example, among the monks 
of Egypt, as Cassian tells us. 1 

Ad Tertiam vero, et Sextam, et At Terce, Sext, and None on 

Nonam secundae feriae novem capitula, Monday are to be said the nine remain- 

quae residua sunt de centesimo decimo ing parts of the hundred and eighteenth 

octavo Psalmo, ipsa terna capitula psalm, three parts at each hour. This 

per easdem Horas dicantur. Expense psalm having thus been said through 

igitur Psalmo centesimo octavo decimo in two days that is, Sunday and 

duobus diebus, id est, Dominica et Monday let the nine psalms from the 

secunda feria, tertia feria jam ad Ter- hundred and nineteenth to the hundred 

tiam, Sextam, vel Nonam psallantur and twenty-seventh be said on Tuesday 

terni Psalmi, a centesimo nono decimo at Terce, Sext, and None three at 

usque ad centesimum vigesimum sep- each Hour. And these psalms are to 

timum, id est, Psalmi novem. Quique be repeated at the same Hours every 

Psalmi semper usque ad Dominicam day until Sunday: (the arrangement, 

per easdem Horas itidem repetantur nevertheless, of hymns, lessons, and 

(Hymnorum nihilominus, Lectionum versicles remaining the same every 

vel Versuum dispositione uniformi day), so as always to begin on Sunday 

cunctia diebus servata), et ita scilicet, from the hundred and eighteenth 

ut semper Dominica a centesimo octavo psalm, 
decimo incipiatur. 

For Terce, Sext, and None of Monday the last nine octonaries of 
the hundred and eighteenth psalm have been held in reserve. At the 
same Hours, from Tuesday to the following Sunday, the nine psalms 
which immediately succeed the hundred and eighteenth shall be said 
each day, three of them at each Hour. These are the first of the 
fifteen Gradual Psalms. Their brevity chiefly commended them to 
St. Benedict; for, as we said a short time ago, they are very suitable to 
Hours which monks may have to say by memory, at the scene of their 
labours. So these nine psalms are repeated regularly every day at the 
Hours to which they have been finally fixed; and this is done up to 
Sunday; but at that point the psalmody of the Little Hours shall start 
again at the hundred and eighteenth psalm. 

The words Hymnorum nihilominus . . . servata form a parenthesis 
which commentators generally pass by without comment, and those 
who have deigned to speak of it do so inadequately. Nihilominus is 
an adversative conjunction implying an exception or contrast, and 
we may ask what are the contrasted elements. St. Benedict has just 
said that each day at the same Hours the same psalms are said; and 
it would seem at first sight, despite the " nevertheless," that the 
arrangement for the hymns, lessons, and versicles is to be the same: " the 
arrangement . . . remaining the same every day." Where, then, is the 
contrast ? We ought perhaps to attend more carefully to the thought 
and intention of St. Benedict than to its verbal expression. When he 

1 lnst. t II., xi. 

180 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

wrote this sentence he was alluding to well-known liturgical practice 
and did not dream that his explanation, for all that it was intended 
to be clear, might be very puzzling to future commentators. Perhaps 
we should have understood the " nevertheless " better if it had been 
thrown to the end of the clause; for this seems to have been St. Benedict s 
meaning. He was bound to note that the nine Gradual Psalms were 
said at the same Hours of Terce, Sext, and None every day, but only 
from Tuesday up to Sunday, since Sunday had for all its Little Hours 
a special psalmody, taken from the hundred and eighteenth psalm, 
and Monday, being provided from another source than this psalm at 
Prime, had recourse to it for the three succeeding Hours. Here 
is a sufficiency of change and variety; and it is with the complexity 
of this scheme that St. Benedict contrasts the arrangement of the hymns, 
lessons, and versicles, which remains uniform every day, cunctis diebus. 1 
At Tuesday s Terce, for example, the hymn, lesson, and versicle are the 
same as on Monday and Wednesday. So is it in our present liturgy 
except on Sundays and feast-days, when lessons and versicles are 

Vespera autem quotidie quatuor Vespers are to be sung every day 

Psalmorum modulatione canatur. Qui with four psalms. And let these 

Psalmi incipiantur a centesimo nono begin from the hundred and ninth, 

usque ad centesimum quadragesimum and go on to the hundred and forty- 

septimum: exceptis iis qui in diversis seventh, omitting those of their number 

Horis ex eis sequestrantur, id est, a which are set apart for other Hours 

centesimo decimo septimo, usque ad that is, from the hundred and seven- 

centesimum vigesimum septimum, et teenth to the hundred and twenty- 

centesimo trigesimo tertio, et centesimo seventh, the hundred and thirty- 

quadragesimo secundo. Reliqui omnes third, and the hundred and forty- 

in Vespera dicendi sunt. Et quia second. All the rest are to be said 

minus veniunt tres Psalmi, ideo divi- at Vespers. And as there are three 

dendi sunt qui in numero suprascripto psalms wanting, let those of the afore- 

fortiores inveniuntur: id est, centesi- said number which are somewhat 

mus trigesimus octavus, et centesimus long be divided namely, the hundred 

quadragesimus tertius, et centesimus and thirty-eighth, the hundred and 

quadragesimus quartus. Centesimus forty-third, and the hundred and forty - 

vero sextus decimus, quia parvus est, fourth. But let the hundred and 

cum centesimo quinto decimo conjun- sixteenth, as it is short, be joined to the 

1 See MARTENE, who quotes these explanations of HILDEMAR and BOHERIUS: 
according to them it is the quantity or number of hymns, lessons, and versicles of the 
Hours of each day that remain the same. In our view uniformity is observed rather in 
the quality. Others think that the parenthesis does not necessarily contrast the regime 
for hymns, lessons, and versicles, with that of the psalmody; that nibilominus means either 
" besides, moreover," or " no less, likewise." St. Benedict would then simply say, and 
this with the object of rendering his arrangement of the Little Hours more precise if 
needed, that not only are the psalms he has just mentioned the same until Sunday, 
but that there is uniformity every day in the arrangement or disposition of hymns, 
lessons, and versicles; the law laid down elsewhere for the secondary parts of the Hours 
is to be observed every day: these parts shall have the same number and the same 
arrangement, leaving on one side their quality, of which St. Benedict says nothing. 
This remark would be of the same character as that with which the chapter begins and 
would complete it. 

In what Order the Psatms are to be said 181 

gatur. Digesto ergo ordine Psalmorum hundred and fifteenth. The order 
vespertinorum, reliqua, id est, Lee- of the psalms at Vespers being thus 
tiones, Responsoria, Hymni, Versus, disposed, let the rest- that is, the 
vel Cantica, sicut supra taxavimus, lessons, responses, hymns, verses, and 
impleantur. canticles be said as already laid 


We pass to Vespers. For seven days, at the rate of four psalms a 
day, Vespers require twenty-eight psalms. The Benedictine liturgy, 
like the Roman and Ambrosian, makes the series of Vesper psalms begin 
with the hundred and ninth. The traditional psalm of the Lucernarium, 
psalm cxl., chosen for the sake of its verse: Dirigatur oratio mea . . ., 
occurs in this last portion of the psalter. Beginning with Sunday, 
says St. Benedict, the psalms are to be taken from the hundred and ninth 
to the hundred and forty-seventh inclusively, the three last psalms of 
the psalter forming the laudes of each day. This would give thirty- 
eight psalms, or more than are required, if some were not reserved for 
other Hours : the hundred and seventeenth belonging to Lauds of Sunday, 
the hundred and eighteenth and the first nine Gradual Psalms being 
applied as we have just seen, the hundred and thirty-third being the 
last psalm of Compline, and the hundred and forty-second being the 
second psalm of Saturday s Lauds. The hundred and sixteenth psalm, 
being short, is joined to the hundred and fifteenth. But after these 
arrangements we are left with three psalms too few; so the longest 
psalms of the Vesper series have to be divided into two i.e., the 
hundred and thirty-eighth, the hundred and forty-third, and the 
hundred and forty-fourth. 

Digesto ergo. . . . Here again is a small clause which should not 
have escaped the attention of commentators. This remark seems 
parallel to that which terminates the preceding section; yet we may 
hesitate to give it the same interpretation. If the parallelism is com 
plete and in the sense that we have indicated, we should translate 
thus: " The order of the psalms for Vespers is thus fixed; they are new 
every day, yet all else i.e., lesson, responsory, hymn, versicle, and 
canticle, 1 is performed as we have determined above in the preceding 
section, and remains unchanged throughout the week." But, to say 
nothing of the other liturgical items, was the hymn at Vespers always 
the same ? There is no historical impossibility in the matter. 2 St. 
Benedict speaks of hymns proper to each of the Little Hours, but he 
nowhere says that the hymn for Vespers changes each day, any ^more 
than the hymns of Vigils, Lauds, and Compline. Furthermore, in his 
Rule he only regulates the Sunday and ferial office, and the little he 
says about feast-days does not allow us to conjecture that they enjoyed 
proper hymns. But perhaps, after all is said, our Holy Father s remark 
may only have the purpose of reminding us, in passing and with reference 
to the arrangements of the Vesper psalmody, of the composition of the 

1 We should, as a matter of fact, read the singular. 

2 Study on this point the cursus of ST. C/ESARIUS and of ST. AUREUAN. 

1 82 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

rest of the Office, that lesson, responsory, hymn, versicle, and canticle 
are as previously ordered i.e., in Chapter XVII. 1 

Ad Completorium vero quotidie At Compline the same psalms are 

iidem Psalmi repetantur ; id est quartus, to be repeated every day namely, the 

nonagesimus, et centesimus trigesimus fourth, nineteenth, and hundred and 

tertius. thirty-third. 

Compline has the same psalms every day : the fourth, Cum invocarem, 
the ninetieth, Qui habitat, and the hundred and thirty-third, Ecce 
nunc benedicite Dominum. We may note that St. Benedict in this 
place says nothing of the prayers which follow the psalmody; yet from 
this silence we can draw no conclusions towards a solution of our 

Disposito ordine Psalmodise diurnae, The order of psalmody for the 

reliqui omnes Psalmi, qui supersunt, Day Hours being now arranged, let 

aequaliter dividantur in septem noc- all the remaining psalms be equally 

tium Vigilias, partiendo scilicet qui distributed among tRe seven Night 

inter eos prolixiores sunt Psalmi, et Offices, by dividing the longer psalms 

duodecim per unamquamque consti- into two, and assigning twelve to 

tuantur noctem. each night. 

The psalmody for the Day Hours has been explained. The seven 
Night Offices shall share all the remaining psalms all that have not 
yet been appropriated. This distribution is to be made equally, at 
the rate of twelve psalms for each night. There is left that part of the 
psalter which extends from the twentieth to the hundred and eighth 
psalm i.e., eighty-nine psalms; and, since we require eighty-four, we 
should have too many if the ninety-fourth psalm were not retained for 
the Invitatory, the nineteenth as the second psalm of Compline, and 
twelve others for Lauds. When these have been subtracted, there are 
nine psalms too few; we get out of this difficulty by dividing the nine 
longest psalms " into two Glorias," as St. Benedict said farther back. The 
Rule does not designate these psalms; but, according to Benedictine 
custom, they are the thirty-sixth, sixty-seventh, sixty-eighth, seventy- 
seventh, eighty-eighth, hundred and third, hundred and fourth, hundred 
and fifth, hundred and sixth. In the Ambrosian and Roman liturgies 
also, the psalmody of the Night Offices concludes with the hundred and 
eighth psalm. 

Hoc praecipue commonentes, ut si Above all, we recommend that if 

cui forte haec distributio Psalmorum this arrangement of the psalms be 

displicuerit, ordinet, si melius aliter displeasing to anyone, he should, if 

judicaverit, dum omnimodis id atten- he think fit, order it otherwise; taking 

datur, ut omni hebdomada Psalterium care especially that the whole Psalter 

ex integro numero centum quinqua- of a hundred and fifty psalms be 

ginta Psalmorum psallatur, et Do- recited every week, and always begun 

1 This explanation is doubtless similar to that referred to in the end of the note on 
page 180. But the explanation here does not do violence to the text, while in the 
parenthesis Hymnorum . . . there are expressions such as nihilominus, dispositione 
uniform*, which fit in with it badly. The two passages seem in reality rather different. 

In what Order the Psalms are to be said 183 

minico die semper a capite repetatur afresh at the Night Office on Sunday, 

ad Vigilias : quia nimis iners devotionis For those monks show themselves too 

suse servitium ostendunt Monachi, slothful in the divine service who say 

qui minus Psalterio, cum Canticis in the course of a week less than the 

consuetudinariis, per septimanae cir- entire Psalter, with the usual canticles; 

culum psallunt; cum legamus sanctos since we read that our holy fathers 

Patres nostros uno die hoc strenue resolutely performed in a single day 

implevisse, quod nos tepidi utinam what I pray we tepid monks may 

septimana integra persolvamus. achieve in a whole week. 

St. Benedict does not flatter himself that he has distributed the 
psalter in the best manner possible. With perfect humility and deference 
to the views of others, he emphatically (pr&cipue) admonishes any of 
his successors (he cannot here mean simple monks), who may discover 
an arrangement which seems preferable, to adopt it without scruple. 
So long as liturgical arrangements were not definitely consecrated by 
the Church, some Abbots took advantage of the permission accorded 
by our Holy Father. Councils such as those of Aix-la-Chapelle in 
A.D. 802 and 817 had to recall monastic communities to the pure and 
simple observance of the Rule. Even as concerns the distribution of the 
psalter St. Benedict s work is very wise; if there be some complexity 
in the arrangement of the psalms, we must recognize, at least from the 
point of view of the length of the Offices, that all the parts are success 
fully balanced and counterpoised. 1 

The only point which seemed essential to St. Benedict, and which 
every arrangement, whatever it might be, should safeguard before all else, 
was that the psalter should be said each week in its entirety that is, with 
all its hundred and fifty psalms, so that the series might begin anew 
every Sunday at the Night Office. The principle that guided our 
Holy Father and the Roman Church is obvious : the Sovereign Pontiff 
emphasized it recently in the constitution Divino afflatu. The 
psalter was created by God Himself to be for ever the authentic formu 
lary of prayer. With its thoughts and in its language God has willed 
to be praised and honoured. The psalms express the deepest, most 
varied, and most delicate sentiments of the human heart, and answer 
all its needs. They served the saints of the Old Testament; they have 
served the Apostles and the saints of all ages. And their words have 
been uttered by other and more august lips: for they were said and 
said again by Our Lady and Our Lord. In the pilgrimages to Jerusalem 
Our Lord and His Mother and St. Joseph chanted the Gradual Psalms. 
Some authors have thought that Our Lord used to recite the psalter 
every day, and that He was only continuing His prayer when in His 
Passion, raised aloft on the cross, He said: "My God, my God, why 
hast thou forsaken me ? " and again: " Into thy hands I commend my 

Perhaps, in St. Benedict s time, some monks had begun to reduce 

1 Cf. H/EFT., 1. VII., tract, v., disq. iv. et v. Cf. D. CABROL, La Rtforme du 
et du Calendrier, 

184 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

the amount of their psalmody. To say in the course of a week the 
Psalter and the customary canticles is, adds St. Benedict, a minimum 
effort for those who are workmen of prayer. They would indeed show too 
great indolence and sloth, in the service of God that they have vowed, 
who should fail of this. While we read that our holy fathers 1 valiantly 
performed in one day this task of the psalter, God grant that we tepid 
monks may fulfil it at least in the course of a week. The purpose of this 
humble remark of our Holy Father s is to persuade his children 
not to reduce an Office adapted so considerately to the capacity 
of all and thereby constituting a wise mean; but he cannot have wished 
to suggest any depreciation of the cursus which he has just established, 
nor to invite experiment and indiscreet change. However, the phrase 
" we tepid monks " has more than once aroused the spirit of emulation 
in certain religious or in whole congregations, so that Offices were 
added to Offices. It goes without saying that private devotion may give 
itself full rein, under the direction of obedience; and a disciple of St. 
Peter Damian, St. Dominic Loricatus, succeeded in reciting twelve 
psalters and a half in twenty-four hours, while at the same time giving 
himself the discipline with both hands. " But these examples," 
concludes Calmet, " are more worthy of admiration than of imitation, 
and the excessive prolixity of Offices has met with the disapproval of 
several very judicious persons." 

1 ... Dixerunt inter se^ ut prius ex more complerent or ationeset psalmodiam,et posted 
cibum caperent. Cum autem ingressi fuissent^ psallebant, totumque psaltenum comple- 
verunt (Verba Seniorum : Vita Patrum, III., 6. ROSWEYD, p. 493). 



DE DISCIPLINA PSALLENDI. Ubique We believe that the divine presence 

credimus divinam esse prassentiam, et is everywhere, and that the eyes of 

oculos Domini in omni loco speculari the Lord behold the good and the 

bonos et malos: maxime tamen hoc evil in every place. Especially do we 

sine aliqua dubitatione credimus, cum believe this, without any doubt, when 

ad opus divinum assistimus. we are assisting at the Work of God. 

THE last two chapters of the section on the Office are not concerned 
with technicalities, but specify the dispositions, especially the 
interior dispositions, which we should bring with us to the 
psalmody (that is to say, to the Work of God in general) and to 
private prayer. 

" We believe that God is present everywhere, and that in every 
place the eyes of the Lord look attentively on the good and the evil. . . ." 
The words are a sort of brief allusion to the doctrine of the first degree 
of humility, that the fear of God must determine our attitude in all our 
prayers. They indicate the surroundings in which our life is passed: 
that we live in a sanctuary, very near to God, very close to His Heart. 
We should think often of this. An intelligent action, says Aristotle, 
is one qu<& de intrinseco procedit cum cognitione eorum in quibus est actio. 
That is to say, it is an action which comes from within, not as a purely 
mechanical reaction, nor by constraint, but spontaneously, and is com 
bined with knowledge of all that concerns the action, or at least of all 
important circumstances. Now our life is really intelligent, has a 
chance of interesting us, of developing and of succeeding, only if we 
become conscious of its character, of the serious and even solemn 
circumstances in which it is enacted. In simpler phrase than the philo 
sopher, St. Benedict says: " We believe ... we believe without any 
doubt." We must do honour to our faith, and we only do so when we 
submit ourselves practically to it. Apart from such practical sub 
mission, faith is nothing but a philosophic system or a Platonic ideal 
without practical issue. The monk is a believer and must take his 
faith seriously. 

Now, faith tells us that God is everywhere present and that His gaze, 
though He be not seen, illumines all human activity; it tells us too that in 
every place and at every moment we are able, and sweet duty binds us, to 
live before Him and do Him homage. This homage, however, is private, 
not official, and has its source in personal love; it is quite free in its 
expression, and though it ever remains profoundly respectful, yet is it 
without forms and ceremonial. But the sacred liturgy pays God an 
official worship; and if God is not more present at the Divine ( 
than at private prayer, we are nevertheless especially bound to awaken 
and exercise our faith when we take part in this official audience, wherein 


1 86 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

all details are foreseen and all gestures regulated by the etiquette of 
God. God s audience-chamber is always open, but the Divine Office 
is a solemn levee. There God is enwrapped in more compelling 
majesty; we appear before Him in the name of the whole Church; we 
identify ourselves with the one, eternal High-Priest, Our Lord Jesus 
Christ; we perform the work of works. 

Ideo semper memores simus quod Let us, then, ever remember what 
ait Propheta: Servite Domino in titnore. the prophet says: " Serve the Lord in 
Et iterum: Psallite sapienter. Et: fear": and again, " Sing ye wisely "; 
In consfectu Angelorum psallam tibi. and, " In the sight of the angels I will 
Ergo consideremus qualiter oporteat sing praises unto thee." Therefore 
nos in conspectu divinitatis et Ange- let us consider how we ought to behave 
lorum esse, et sic stemus ad psallendum, ourselves in the presence of God and 
ut mens nostra concordet voci nostra?. of His angels, and so assist at the 

Divine Office, that mind and voice be 

in harmony 

Let us but think of it, and go through an act of supernatural under 
standing: memores simus, consideremus. Let us make our "composition 
of place," as modern methods of prayer have it. We are face to face 
with God. All creation is reunited. The Angels are around the altar. 
We are going to sing with them (Ps. cxxxvii. i) and chant the triple 
Sanctus which they have taught us. Surely, then, we should vie with 
them in reverence and love. They veil their faces with their wings: 
we too are bidden by the prophet David, " Serve the Lord in fear " 
(Ps. ii. 1 1). And again, he says : " Sing ye wisely " (Ps. xlvi. 8) that is, 
be aware not only of the words you pronounce, and the instruction they 
contain, but also and especially of Him to whom you speak. And, 
finally, let us remember that in this more fortunate than were perhaps 
St. Benedict s monks we have the Blessed Sacrament in our oratory. 

How well we recognize our Holy Father s generous method, at 
once profound and spiritual ! The way of constraint, though rules be 
absolute and rubrics perfect, is unable to produce more than an external 
perfection at the best. If the soul is distracted or the heart cold, if the 
Divine Office is nothing but a drill of body and voice, it will soon become 
tedious, with a deadly tedium. And this will be apparent, betraying 
itself in yawns and impatient movements, in wandering glances, in all 
sorts of irreverences. "What do you do during Mass?" a distracted 
soul was once asked. " I wait for it to end," was the answer. What, 
then, will you do in eternity, which will not end ? 

Many other conditions are necessary for the realization of our Holy 
Father s ideal. The community must have a high esteem for the Divine 
Office; and it is for superiors to maintain or restore this in every way 
and before all else. The individual, too, must have this esteem; it 
is heightened by study and by constant affectionate intercourse with 
Our Lord. How can one, who out of choir is occupied with every 
thing but God, flatter himself that he will avoid distraction or 
lethargy at the Divine Office ? Remote preparation for prayer is 

How to say the Divine Office 187 

recommended by all the masters of asceticism. 1 They speak to us also 
of a proximate and immediate preparation; and our Constitutions have 
provided for it by securing us before each choir duty the few minutes, 
"statio" in the cloister. These are precious minutes, and it would 
be hard to exaggerate their importance, for then do we tune the soul, 
our spiritual instrument. We should therefore have the good sense 
not to pursue in the " statio " questions or lines of thought which we 
have begun; nor should it be a place for conversation or any sort of inter 
course. " Before prayer prepare thy soul and be not as a man that 
tempteth God" (Ecclus. xviii. 23). 

The entrance into the church, the attitude and various motions 
to be observed in choir, are regulated by the ceremonial and watched 
over by the master of ceremonies. But neither the one nor the other 
will be able to secure the execution, at once accurate and graceful, 
dignified and simple, of the liturgical motions, unless each individual con 
tributes his whole presence of mind, his full measure of good behaviour, 
of spiritual courtesy, and finally of self-denial : for we must then especially 
take account of the whole body and co-ordinate our movements with 
those of others. All the ceremonies, even the smallest, will be exactly 
observed, in good order, yet without the obtrusive stiffness of soldiers 
on parade, if we are attentive to the meaning and purpose of the action 
that is being performed. Self-denial is perhaps more than ever indis 
pensable in the case of the chanting; for it is better to suffer a little error 
than to sacrifice the combined movement, and the vocal unison, and to 
transform the choir into a prize-ring or a battlefield. The Constitu 
tions bid us " not to spare the voice": which is not an invitation to 
drown all others; and when they describe the qualities of the true 
sacred chant, with its virile and quiet style, they do not intend to leave 
to the judgement of the individual a matter which is of right reserved 
to the choirmaster. In this field also we must use all diligence, and 
we need preparation; for the execution of certain parts of the Gregorian 
chant cannot be improvised; we must not, once we have made our 
profession, bid good-bye for ever to the study of the Gradual and 
Antiphonary. This will never be good enough for Our Lord; and, 
while we ought not to devote ourselves to such study merely to satisfy 

1 We should ponder these words of ST. BASIL, which our Holy Father had in mind 
in writing this chapter and the succeeding one: Quomodo obtinebit quis ut tn oratione 
sensus ejus non vagetur ? Si certus sit assistere se ante oculos Dei. Si enim quis judicem 
suum videns vel principem, et loquens cum eo, non sibi credit licitum esse vagari oculis, 
et aliorsum aspicere, dum ipse loquitur ; quanta magis qui accedit ad Dominum, nusquam 
debet movere oculum cordis, sed intentus esse in eum, qui scrutatur renes et corda ? . . . 

i^vrrtuwir** AV * ** * * v A 99 * J 

est mibi ut non commovear. Quomodo autem possibile sit, pradiximus ; td est, si non den 
anima nostra otium, sed in omni tempore de Deo, et de openbus ac de beneficns ejus, et 
de donis cogitemm et bate cum conjessione, et gratiarum actione semper volvamus in menu, 
sicut scriptum est : Psallite sapienter (Reg. contr., cvni., ax. CJ. ibid., xxxiv. CASS., 
Conlat., V., xvii., xviii.). The Spiritual Life and Prayer, chap. vii. 

1 88 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

the aesthetic requirements of some hearers, and to keep up the reputa 
tion of a " schola" yet we must remember that the chant and the 
psalmody are our form of apostolate and that we owe to souls this most 
effective preaching. 

But it is not sufficient to assure the dignity and the good material 
execution of the Divine Office. Our minds must realize to whom word 
and song are addressed, and must be attentive to the thought of the 
Psalmist and of the Church. As the voice rings out the heart must 
grow fervent. And, to complete the harmony, our lives themselves 
must be brought into accord with thought and love and voice. 
Then, and then only, will the liturgy attain its twofold end, of 
honouring God and sanctifying our souls. Once again let us note 
well the method St. Benedict uses to inspire reverence in the 
oratory and attention at prayer. He does not think, as did other 
monastic legislators, 1 of combating distraction and sleepiness by making 
his monks weave baskets or mats during the long psalmody and lessons. 
The Work of God, with him, is all in its entirety to be performed 
in the House of God: " Let the oratory be what it is called; and let 
nothing else be done or kept there" (Chapter LIL). He takes for 
granted that we are Christians and that we use reflection; so he gives 
us no other rule than what is provided by our spiritual insight. " Let 
us consider," he says; by which words he invites us to eliminate all 
unreason, all discord between theory and deliberate practice, and to make 
of our whole life a constant exercise of harmony, loyalty, and delicate 
feeling. And our Holy Father sums up all his teaching in that phrase 
of antique ring: Ut mens nostra concordet voci nostrez (That mind and 
voice be in harmony). It recalls the words of St. Augustine 2 inserted 
by St. Caesarius into his Rule for virgins: 3 " When you pray to God in 
psalms and hymns, let the heart feel what the voice utters." 

1 Cf. CALMET, Commentary on Chapter XI. 

2 Epist.CCXI.^. P.L., XXXIII., 960. In theEnarratio in Psalmum cxlvi. (2) we 
read : Qui ergo psallit, non sola voce psallit ; sed assumpto etiam quodam organo quod vocatur 
psalterium, accedentibus manibus voci concordat. Vis ergo psallere ? Non solum vox 
tua sonet laudes Dei, sed opera tua concordent cum voce tua. (P.L., XXXVII., 1899.) 
In letter XLVIII. (3) to Abbot Eudoxius and his monks ST. AUGUSTINE writes: 
. . . Sive cantantes et psallentes in cordibus vestris Domino, vel vocibus a corde non dissonis 
... (P.L., XXXIII., 188-189). 

3 C. xx. Read a beautiful sermon on this theme by ST. CESARIUS, in the. appendix 
to the sermons of St. Augustine, CCLXXXIV. P.L., XXXIX., 2282-2283. 



DE REVERENTIA ORATION is. Si cum If, when we wish to make any 

hominibus potentibus volumus aliqua request to men in power, we presume 

suggerere, non praesumimus, nisi cum not to do so except with humility and 

humilitate, et reverentia: quanto magis reverence; how much more ought we 

Domino Deo universorum cum omni with all lowliness and purity of devo- 

humilitate et puritatis devotione sup- tion to offer our supplications to the 

plicandum est ? Lord God of all things ? 

THIS chapter is not a repetition of the preceding one. The 
nineteenth chapter deals with conventual and official prayer, 
with the solemn audience accorded by Our Lord, and its title 
speaks of disciplina that is, ceremonial; the twentieth deals with 
private prayers, and, to remove any danger arising from the greater 
freedom of such prayers, speaks to us of the respect (reverentia) with 
which we should always approach God. 

The comparison and the a fortiori with which St. Benedict begins 
were suggested to him by his good sense and his reading; 1 but it is not 
impossible that he also had in mind in this simile a characteristic point 
of Roman life. Society was not yet levelled and made democratic. 
There was a powerful aristocracy, around which was grouped not only 
an army of slaves, but also a vast clientele (dientela), composed of free 
men or enfranchised slaves, who lived attached to their master, under 
the name of friends, companions, or simply of clients; every day they 
would come to pay their duty to their master or to ask a favour, repaying 
in respect what they received in money or patronage. 

Si non ingentem foribus domus alta superbis 
Mane salutantum totis vomit aedibus undam. 2 

The clients were partly of the household of their master j^they were 
associated with him in his rule and his interests, and so their requests 
were a sort of discreet indication of that which seemed to them fitting: 
they " suggest," as St. Benedict says, and the term becomes admirably 
theological when applied to our prayers. If we dare to approach the 
powerful of this world only with humility and reverence, if our sense 
of propriety and our own interest make us adopt before each of them 
the appropriate attitude, with how much greater reason ought 

1 S. BASIL., Reg. contr., cviii. (cf. Reg. brev., cci.). CASS., Conlat., XXIIL, vi. 
Cf. also T.KT, De <W J, xvi. (P.L., L, ii 7 3-"74): %>^ " - 
assidere sub conspectu, contraque conspectum ejus, quern quam maxim* reverearts, a 
venereris; quanto magis sub conspectu De^ mvi, angelo adhuc orattoms astante, etc 
S. EPHREM., Paranesis XIX. (Opp. grac. lat., t. II., p. 95). 

2 VIRGIL, Georgics, 1. II., 461-462, 

No portals proud of lofty palaces 

Pour from each room long waves of morning guests.^ ^ 


190 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

supplications to the Lord and Master of all things to be made in all 
humility, devotion and purity ? 

Humility, as we know, springs from the consciousness of what God 
is and of what we are in His sight. The habit of dealing with God, 
the facility with which He allows Himself to be approached, and the 
very humble forms which He takes when He comes down to us none 
of these things should lessen our respect. One of the most certain 
marks of delusion is to treat God as an equal, as one who has made a 
bargain with us and with whom we are doing business. When Our 
Lord in the Gospel urged us to use trustful, earnest, even importunate 
prayer, He did not mean to encourage that strangely peremptory and 
exacting tone which is sometimes taken by the petitions and such 
strange petitions too ! of the unenlightened faithful. Whatever the 
supernatural dignity to which God has raised us, there is never reason 
for our raising ourselves, for developing an audacious manner, or for 
forgetting we are speaking to God. 

Purity is mentioned as many as three times in these few lines. We 
should understand it not only in the special sense of freedom from gross 
passions, but also of detachment from all created love and of the absence 
of all base alloy. Our prayers will be effective when we are able to say 
to God: " I undoubtedly have, unknown to myself, inclinations which 
You see and which displease You : I love them as little as You, and I 
disavow them." When our will, which is the source of every relation, 
is free from all irregular attachment, then God has established us in 
true purity. But St. Benedict does not say simply "purity": his 
phrase is " devotion of purity." In the language of to-day devotion 
signifies the flame of charity, and is that disposition of habitual fervour 
in the service of God which makes us fulfil with promptitude, perse 
verance, and joy all our duties towards Him. But the Latin word devotio 
has a meaning which, while not very different, is more profound. 
Devotio is belonging, consecration, subjection, as a state, as a fixed, 
continuous, and even legal condition; and in the present case it is servi 
tude accepted and loved, voluntary subjection to God and to all God s 
dispensations. In the eighteenth chapter we have the same sense of 
devotio: Nimis iners devotionis sues servitium ostendunt monachi (Those 
monks show themselves too slothful in the divine service); and the 
liturgy invokes Our Lady pro devoto femineo sexu (for the consecrate 
feminine sex). Puritas then is enfranchisement from any alien servitude 
which should steal a part of our love or activity; and devotio means 
belonging wholly to Our Lord. 

Et non in multiloquio, sed in And let us remember that not for 
puritate cordis, et compunctione lacri- our much speaking, but for our purity 
marum nos exaudiri sciamus. of heart and tears of compunction, 

shall we be heard. 

After having described in three words the interior disposi 
tions with which we should approach God, St. Benedict now passes 

Of Reverence at Prayer \ 9 1 

to the external and more material side of prayer. With Our Lord 
Himself, 1 with St. Augustine, 2 Cassian, 3 and all the Fathers, he urges 
us to avoid wordiness. The Jewish worship was not the only worship 
which, thanks to the priests, became a difficult and complicated ritualism, 
a religion of words and gestures; for ritualism and verbiage invaded the 
pagan cults and especially the Roman worship: "They think they are 
heard for their much speaking," as Our Lord said. However, many 
words do not make real prayer. We pray in words only that we may 
one day be free of words, and adore, praise, and love in silence that 
" Beauty which closeth the lips." 4 " They that adore him must 
adore in spirit and in truth" (John iv. 24). Prayer has its source in 
the heart ; there is a prayer of the heart which is not tied to words. And 
this prayer is always heard, for the Spirit of God inspires it and gives it 
its form: " For, we know not what we should pray for as we ought: 
but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings " 
(Rom. viii. 26). To pray in purity of heart is, as we have said, to display 
to the gaze and the heart of God the desire and affection of a soul which 
is free, which is disengaged from all base attachments and united to 
Him in conformity of will. 

Et compunction? lacrimarum (and tears of compunction). The 
expression is borrowed from Cassian, 5 whose conferences on prayer should 
be read; and he also speaks often of true purity of heart and of pure 
prayer. Compunction though the Imitation tells us that it is better 
to have it than to define it is that softening of heart caused in us, 
under the guidance of faith, by the remembrance of our faults and the 
consideration of the benefits of God. Our Holy Father several times 
in his Rule conjoins prayer and tears, as though the two things went 
naturally together; in the fifty-second chapter he says : " If anyone desire 
to pray in private, let him go in simply and pray, not with a loud voice, 
but with tears and fervour of heart." St. Gregory tells us that St. Bene 
dict had the gift of tears; and what one day troubled the good Theo- 
probus was less the abundance and duration of his tears, than their deep 
sadness : " When he waited a long while yet did not see his weeping ended, 
and the man of God was not, as was his wont, weeping in prayer but in 
sorrowful lamentation, he inquired what might be the cause of so great 
a grief." 7 The gift of tears is regarded as the least of all the charismata; 
but it has the merit of not leading to pride and also of leaving no room 
for distractions at prayer; it drowns them all. 

Et ideo brevis debet esse et pura Therefore prayer ought to be short 
oratio; nisi forte ex affectu inspira- and pure, except it be perchance pro- 
tionis divinse gratia; protendatur. In longed by the inspiration of divine 

1 MATT. vi. 7 ff. 2 Epist. CXXX., ad Probam, 20. P.L., XXXIII., 501-502. 

3 Inst., II., x.; Conlat., IX., xxxvi. 

4 B. ANGELA OF FOLIGNO: The Book oj Visions and Instructions, c. xxi. English 
trans., CRUIKSHANK. New ed., N.Y. 1903. 5 Conlat., IX., xxviii. 

6 Monachi autem illud opus est pracipuum, ut orattonem puram offerat Deo, n 
habens in conscientia reprehensibile (RuFiN., Hist, monach., c. i. ROSWEYD, p. 453). 

7 S. GREG. M., Dial, 1. II., c. xvii. 

192 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

conventu tamen omnino brevietur grace. But let prayer made in common 
oratio, et facto signo a priore, omnes always be short: and at the signal given 
pariter surgant. by the superior, let all rise together. 

St. Benedict enunciates the practical conclusion: our prayer should 
be short and pure, short so that it may be pure. 1 Such was the custom 
of the Egyptian monks, as is remarked by St. Augustine and Cassian; 
they preferred to keep in touch with Our Lord by many rapid ejacula 
tions, rather than by long prayers, in which many superfluous petitions 2 
are often made, which too are especially concerned with self, and which 
may degenerate into fatigue, torpor, and decay. We should, moreover, 
reflect on the inevitable danger, which would have been incurred in 
St. Benedict s day, and which is still incurred in our own time by minds 
of small culture and imperfectly formed souls, in being held officially 
to prolonged prayer. Previous training is indispensable for mental 
prayer, if it is to have any considerable duration. For a moment may 
find all said, and then the mind is off elsewhere. Sometimes we may 
recall it, but it is off again, no matter in what direction. Sometimes 
we do not even think of recalling it, and the time is spent in mental 
wanderings, so that we reach the end of our half-hour and wonder what 
part God has taken in the prayer that has just abruptly ended. And 
yet, at the very same time, we know our faith and our needs, and perhaps 
even our theology. 

It goes without saying that our Holy Father has no thought of re 
ducing the time which our fervour would give to God, for he formally 
provides for the case when divine grace stirs in us an interior movement 
of devotion and leads us to prolong our prayers. Provided that the 
work that is given us by obedience does not suffer and that we neglect 
none of our duties, this taste for prayer is wholly legitimate. But in 
order to avoid delusion and to consecrate all by obedience, we should 
not undertake prolonged prayers without previously obtaining the con 
sent of the Abbot. The Constitutions fix the minimum time which 
should be devoted to prayer. And God grant that monks may ever 
have sufficient sense of their vocation for superiors to be dispensed from 
all inquiry and compulsion in this matter. However, no attempt is 
made to saddle us with a " method "; we are not forbidden to converse 
with God in peaceful meditation on Holy Scripture or the liturgy; 
for the lectio divina (sacred reading), which the Rule prescribes, is 
something more than a simple preparation for prayer; these two hours 
of reading enable our Holy Father to recommend that the prayers of 
his monks should be short, so as to be pure. 

The last provision of this chapter is inspired again by discretion. 
If the individual be allowed, when divine grace moves him, to increase 
his private prayers, it is clear that it would scarcely be reasonable to 
require long additions to the daily liturgical duty from the whole com- 

1 Cf. ST. THOMAS, Summa, II. -II., q. Ixxxiii., a, 14. U trum oratio deb et esse diuturna. 

2 Hoc preecipue est in oratione petendnm^ ut Deo uniamur (Summa, II.-II., q. Ixxxiii., 
a. I, ad 2). 

Of Reverence at Prayer \ 9 3 

munity. Therefore St. Benedict ordains that prayer in common should 
always be very short: omnino brevietur, and that all should rise at the 
same time, on the signal of the superior. Of what prayers is he treating ? 
Cassian relates how the monks of Egypt after each psalm prayed for 
some moments erect and in silence, then prostrated on the ground, 
and almost immediately rose again, to unite their intention finally with 
the one who was reciting the collect : " But when he who is to make the 
collect has risen from the ground, all likewise rise, so that no one pre 
sumes either to kneel before he bends down or to delay when he rises, 
lest he should seem rather to have made a prayer of his own than to 
have followed the prayer of him who makes the collect." 1 But St. Bene 
dict nowhere prescribes private prayer or a collect after each psalm: 
their place is taken by the antiphons. He would seem here to be alluding 
to the prayers with which the Offices ended (see Chapter LXVII.): 2 
of which some were said in silence and mentally, while the monks either 
bowed or prostrated, and which the Abbot might abridge. For all 
its brevity, this conventual prayer was too much for that monk, men 
tioned in the life of St. Benedict, whom a little black devil used to lure 
outside. " He could not stay at prayer, but as soon as the brethren 
bowed down in prayer, he would go out. . . . And when the man of 
God had come to the same monastery and at the appointed time, the 
psalmody being finished, the brethren were giving themselves to 
prayer," 3 etc. St. Benedict never speaks of conventual prayers dis 
tinct from the Work of God: "When the Work of God is ended, let 
all go out with the utmost silence. . . . But if anyone desire to pray 
in private, let him go in with simplicity and pray " (Chapter LIL). 

1 Inst.j II., vii.; cf. ibid., x. The Rule of ST. PACHOMIUS said: Cumque manum 
percusserit stans prior in gradu, et de scripturis quidpiam volvens memoriter, ut, oratione 
finiente, nullus consurget tardius, sed omnes pariter levabunt (vi.). 

2 CASSIAN mentions the concluding prayer of the Offices: Satis vero constat ilium 
trinee curvationis numerum, qui solet in congregationibus fratrum ad concludendam synaxin 
celebrari, eum qui intento animo supplied t observare non posse (Conlat., IX., xxxiv.). D. 
BAUMER would read orationis instead of curvationis, and non supplicat (Hist, du Brtv. y 
t.I.,p. 149, note i). 

3 S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. iv. 




E enter now upon a portion of the Holy Rule which deals 
with the internal government and discipline of the monastery 
(XXI.-XXX.). St. Benedict begins by determining the 
principle of order and that hierarchical arrangement of 
parts which shall secure the right functioning of all. The authority of 
the Abbot initiates all regular activities, presiding over all and issuing 
sovereign decrees, and to it St. Benedict devoted the long chapter at 
the beginning of his Rule. But the Abbot must be seconded by officials 
acting under his orders and on his responsibility. Ordinarily this 
function appertains chiefly to the pr<$ositus (the Prior), to whom 
St. Benedict makes a brief allusion at the end of this chapter. When he 
comes to deal with him professedly, in the sixty-fifth chapter, our Holy 
Father makes no secret of his repugnance for a dignity and an office 
which to his mind was dangerous on more than one count. After the 
Prior come the deans: but if the deans are able, in their respective 
departments, to secure work and discipline, then the general and com 
prehensive rule of the Prior may be easily dispensed with: " If possible, 
let all the affairs of the monastery be attended to (as we have already 
arranged) by deans, as the Abbot shall appoint; so that, the same office 
being shared by many, no one may become proud " (Chapter LXV.). 
So we may speak first of the deans. 

fuerit congregatio, eligantur de ipsis 
fratres boni testimonii et sanctae con- 
versationis et constituantur decani : qui 
sollicitudinem gerant super decanias 
suas in omnibus, secundum mandata 
Dei et praecepta Abbatis sui. Qui 
decani tales eligantur, in quibus securus 
Abbas partiatur onera sua, et non eli 
gantur per ordinem, sed secundum vitas 
meritum, et sapientiae doctrinam. 

Should the community be large, 
let there be chosen from it certain 
brethren of good repute and holy life, 
and appointed deans. Let them care 
fully direct their deaneries in all things 
according to the commandments of 
God and the orders of their Abbot. 
And let such men be chosen deans as 
the Abbot may safely trust to share his 
burdens: let them not be chosen 
according to order, but for the merit 
of their lives and for their learning of 

The name and functions of the dean came from the camp to the 
monastery. In military language a decanus or decurio was one who had 
ten men under his command. 1 The cenobites of Egypt, with something 
of a military organization, were arranged in groups of ten. St. Jerome 
says: "They are divided by tens and hundreds, the tenth man pre 
siding over nine; while the hundredth has ten provosts under him." 2 

1 In the same way COLUMELLA says that workers in the fields should be grouped in 
tens (De re rustica, 1. I., c. ix.). 

2 Epist., XXII., 35. P.., XXII., 419. 


Of the Deans of the Monastery 195 

And St. Augustine: "They give their work to those whom they call 
deans (decani) because they are set over ten. . . . These deans, while 
arranging all things with great solicitude and providing whatever their 
life needs for the weakness of the body, yet themselves give an account 
to one whom they call father." In this we recognize the idea and almost 
the phraseology of St. Benedict. He found in Cassian also many passages 
relating to deans. 2 Mentioning that the young monks are entrusted 
" to a senior who is in charge of ten juniors," 3 Cassian notes that the 
office of dean dates from Moses, whose father-in-law Jethro gave him 
this good advice: " Provide out of all the people able meu, such as fear 
God, in whom there is truth, and that hate avarice : and appoint of them 
rulers of thousands, and of hundreds, and of fifties, and of tens, who may 
judge the people at all times. And when any great matter soever shall 
fall out, let them refer it to thee, and let them judge the lesser matters 
only : that so it may be lighter for thee, the burden being shared out unto 
others" (Ex. xviii. 21-22). St. Benedict also would seem to have 
remembered this passage. 

Deans only existed where the community was rather large, and it is 
possible to determine exactly what St. Benedict meant by " large." 
So long as a community consisted of twelve monks, as at Subiaco, or as 
at the commencement of the monastery of Terracina, 4 the Abbot could 
manage with one assistant. But since St. Benedict speaks of deans in 
the plural, and the plural implies at least two, and since each dean had 
ten monks under him (St. Jerome says nine), it would appear that a 
community became really " large " when it reached the number of 
eighteen or twenty religious. 

Eligantur (let there be chosen). There is every reason to believe 
that in St. Benedict s time deans were chosen directly by the Abbot. 
The Abbot chose his deans just as he chose his Prior. If the community 
interfered, it was never to exercise a right or vindicate a privilege, but 
humbly to put its desires before the Abbot and to submit its preferences 
to him; it was no more than a presentation, and the Abbot and his 
monks acted in harmony and for the best interests of all. " But if the 
needs of the place require it, and the community ask for it reasonably 
and with humility, and the Abbot judge it expedient, let him himself 
appoint a Prior, whomsoever he shall choose with the counsel of brethren 
who fear God" (Chapter LXV.). And in Chapter LXII. our Holy 
Father, after having reminded any priest of the monastery that he must 
take his rank according to the date of his profession, provides for this 
exception: " Unless the choice of the community and the will of the 
Abbot should raise him to a higher place for the merit of his life." 
Nowadays deans do not rule over a fixed deanery, but have duties of 
kindly supervision over the whole community; in particular they have 
to set a good example, and to act as advisers to the Abbot, like the seniors. 

1 De moribus Eccles. catbol., 1. I., c. xxxi. PX., XXXII., 1338. 

2 Inst., IV., x, xvii. 3 * > IV -> vii - 
4 S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. iii., xxii. 

196 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Modern Constitutions and Declarations have fixed, for each Benedictine 
Congregation, all that concerns the choice, number, and functions of 
the seniors and deans; most of them recognize the right of a community 
to be represented in the Abbot s Council by brethren elected by secret 
scrutiny. And it generally happens that the counsellors chosen by the 
community are more numerous than those chosen by the Abbot. But 
God grant that we may never have to invoke legislative contrivances to 
prevent the Abbot being in a minority in his Council. Such a course 
would introduce disunion into a monastery, would erect in permanency 
and consecrate a dualism and rivalry between Abbot and community. 
Practically, in a peaceful community, there is no difference between the 
case where the counsellors are chosen by the Abbot, according to the 
text of the Rule, and that where the majority are elected by the monks: 
for all are, by the same title, counsellors of the Abbot and of the com 
munity. The Abbot chooses counsellors, and counsellors are chosen for 
him; they are not to be either opponents or partisans. 

Eligantur de ipsis (let there be chosen from it): deans shall not be 
chosen from seculars or even from other monks. It is hardly necessary 
to-day to observe that authority should only be entrusted to those 
who belong to the family. Yet it is sometimes good to remember that, 
save for the cases provided in Canon Law, externs, no matter who they 
be, have no right to interfere in our internal affairs; we are exempt, 
and have no need for legal guardianship or counsel. Perhaps, however, 
St. Benedict s remark is especially intended to remind the community 
that it should show deference and do honour to deans chosen from its 
bosom. Et constituantur decani (and let them be appointed deans): 
in which words is implied an official recognition of their title and perhaps 
also a ceremony of investiture. According to the Rule of the Master 
the rod of office was solemnly put into their hands. 1 

St. Benedict indicates by what signs the Abbot and his community 
may recognize those who are worthy to be elected. Age is not necessarily 
the determining factor, for deans must not be appointed by seniority: 
" let them not be chosen according to their order "; and it would be 
strange, in promoting a monk, to have regard to nothing but the date 
of his clothing, our Holy Father having several times repeated that age 
should neither raise prejudice against a man nor create a presumption 
in his favour. The old monks and counsellors of the Abbot, of whom 
St. Benedict spoke in the third chapter, are not necessarily candidates 
for the office of dean; the charge then implied, as we have said, an active 
rule and constant supervision, for which aged monks might often not 
have strength; for a man might be a senior and a wise counsellor and yet, 
for one reason or another, be incapable of managing a deanery. We may 
go farther still : aptitude, even marked aptitude, sound learning, and real 
virtue, are not always determining factors; there is needed a sum of 
qualities which our Holy Father reduces to two : vita meritum, sapienti<z 
doctrinam (merit of life, learning of wisdom). The deans are to be 
1 Cap. xi. C/. MENARD, Concord. Reg., c. xxviii., p. 445. 

Of the Deans of the Monastery 197 

chosen as were the first deacons, whom they resemble in their office. 
They are to have a good name among the brethren, so that men may 
bow willingly to their authority; their life must be edifying, since they 
have to help the Abbot in maintaining good observance. Besides 
meritorious life they need the "learning of wisdom" that is to say, 
prudence, tact, and a feeling for what is spiritual and monastic; and it is 
here that training, experience, and age may be a great help. In brief, 
they must be such that the Abbot may have full confidence in them, 
and may with entire security leave many details to them and divide his 
cares among them. 

This, in fact, is the purpose of the deans : to help the Abbot. When 
a house is starting and during all the period of " becoming," the superior 
may have to encroach on the spheres of particular officials; but in a fully 
organized monastery the Abbot should take care to provide himself with 
assistants and deputies, reserving for himself general direction only and 
the work inherent in his charge. He cannot successfully busy himself 
about everything, and our Holy Father wishes him to have quiet and 
leisure : " Let him not be violent or over anxious, not exacting or 
obstinate, not jealous or prone to suspicion, or else he will never be at 
rest" (Chapter LXIV.). Moreover, since he must grow old and die, 
he is well advised to think of the morrow and to initiate others into the 
government of the community, which does not die. Finally, this 
division of labour within the monastery does not merely relieve the Abbot 
and secure the future: it gives others the benefit of co-operation in the 
common work and a measure of responsibility. Whence it comes that 
no one is tempted to be wholly indifferent, to live in isolation, occupied 
solely with his own studies; and each only learns to love the better his 
home and his brethren. 

Deans, says St. Benedict, must be solicitous for their deaneries. 
Solicitude does not mean arrogance or tyranny, but care and loving 
devotion. No one is put in authority that he may satisfy his vanity, 
and make himself friends either within or without the monastery, or take 
reprisals, or act with violence; but rather so that he may be more 
devoted to his monastic family and may serve it more intimately. 
Deans are bound to fulfil their office in its entirety : in omnibus. Formerly 
it was a charge of considerable complexity, requiring continuous care 
combined with decision and strength of character. The duties of deans 
at Monte Cassino were doubtless the same as among the Eastern monks 
spoken of in the passages of St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and Cassian 
previously quoted; they watched over their deaneries in the dormitory, 
in the refectory, and at manual labour; they saw to the observance ^of 
silence, gave permissions, and inflicted penances. A list of the chief 
functions of deans may be found in Martene. Sometimes, in places 
where deans did not exist, these functions were performed by the 
Claustral Prior. At Cluny, after the Abbot and the Grand Prior, came 
the Claustral Prior, assisted at need by another and aided in his super 
vision by masters of the children and young monks and by the circatorts; 

198 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

the name of " deans " was given to the brethren who controlled the 
working of the " villas " or farms situated in the neighbourhood of the 
monastery: villarum provisores. 1 

When St. Benedict wrote of deans that they should " govern their 
deaneries in all things," he had no intention of conferring on them an 
unlimited and uncontrolled power. In the first place there is a divine 
limit: " according to the commandments of God"; and then a limit 
on the side of the Abbot, " and the orders of their Abbot." For this 
authority must be exercised in unity of purpose with the Abbot, neither 
apart from him nor against him. The Abbot shares his government 
but does not abdicate it, and he may not become a stranger in his own 
house. Undoubtedly the monk who is in charge has no need, in the 
transaction of ordinary affairs, to interview the Abbot on details; but 
so soon as there are changes of some moment to be effected, or extra 
ordinary matters to be dealt with, he should consult the Abbot and obtain 
his authorization. And supposing that the Abbot, on a particular 
day and as an exceptional case, should interfere in order to inspect or 
reform some point or other, the official who should be astonished as 
though he were distrusted, who should be irritated as though it implied 
want of consideration, and should protest against the supposed intrusion, 
or give it out that his Abbot is of one way of thinking but he of another, 
such a one would forget the rule : according to the orders of his Abbot. 
A man entrusted with a charge sees clearly only the requirements of his 
charge, is shortsighted and deficient in the sense of proportion; and he 
should be convinced that considerations of a wider scope must sometimes 
modify his programme or his habits. The power of a dean, again, 
is limited on the side of the brethren, since he rules only his deanery. 
He will avoid that ambitious and jealous spirit which makes a man extend 
the field of his jurisdiction as widely as possible: "This is my business, 
that concerns me; custom says that such and such a right or advantage 
belongs to my office." Wherever charity, self-effacement, and good 
sense are lacking, offices will supply matter for petty rivalry, and that 
the more easily since they overlap one another and no customary can 
achieve an exact delimitation of their frontiers. 

We may make one last observation. St. Benedict uses the possessive 
pronoun " their " in alluding to the deaneries; but his intention thereby 
is not to suggest real possession and inalienable right, but simply appoint 
ment. There is no such thing here as possession by prescription, whether 
by a period of seven years or even of thirty. All the offices of the 
monastery are held ad nutum, on precarious tenure, even the office of 
dean or Prior. Every official should realize that his charge may pass 
into another s hands, that he may be deprived of it without the least 
shadow of injustice; for an opposite conviction would be a very subtle 
danger and a recrudescence of the spirit of ownership. If we are relieved 
of an office, we should rather quietly rejoice that we no longer have to 

1 BERNARD., Ordo C/., P. I., c. ii. UDALR., Consuet. Clun., 1. III., c. v. 

Of the Deans of the Monastery 199 

bear that responsibility, and be glad, according to the old saying, that 
Thebes has produced a worthier man. 

Quod si quis ex eis aliqua forte And should any one of them, being 

inflatus superbia repertus fuerit repre- puffed up with pride, be found worthy 

hensibilis: correptus semel, et iterum, of blame, and after being thrice cor- 

et tertio, si emendare noluerit, de- rected, refuse to amend, let him be 

jiciatur, et alter in loco ejus, qui dignus deposed and one put in his place who 

est, subrogetur. Et de praeposito ea- is worthy. And we order the same 

dem constituimus. to be done in the case of the Prior. 

If it happened that any dean, abusing his privileged position and 
swollen with self-importance, should be found blameworthy, this is 
how the Abbot should proceed. With the natural exception of notorious 
fault or scandalous resistance, and when it is only a question of bad 
tendencies or secret faults, a dean shall receive secret admonition up 
to three times. 1 Monks have two such secret admonitions, deans three, 
and the Prior four. If a dean refuse to amend, the Abbot has only one 
resource left ^viz., to withdraw the offender from an office which has 
become a danger for himself and his brethren, and to entrust it to another 
who is worthy of it. An analogous line of conduct, says St. Benedict, 
shall be followed with regard to a proud or unruly Prior. Nevertheless, 
there shall be some differences of treatment; but of these our Holy 
Father says nothing here, since he proposed to speak of the Prior at 
greater length in the sixty-fifth chapter. 

1 Quod, si secundo aut tertio admonita emendare noluerit . . . (S. OESAR., Reg. ad 
virg., x.). 


QUOMODO DORMIANT MONACHi. Let them sleep each one in a 

Singuli per singulos lectos dormiant. separate bed, receiving bedding suitable 

Lectisternia pro modo conversations, to their manner of life, as the Abbot 

secundum dispensationem Abbatis sui, shall appoint, 
singuli accipiant. 

ST. BENEDICT did not throw out the details of his Rule at 
random, without any order; yet it is hard to see, at first sight, 
what is the connection of this chapter with those which surround 
it. Probably our Holy Father, having spoken of the deans, 
wished to speak of the chief circumstances in which they had to exercise 
their duties, and of the methods put into their hands to secure 
obedience. Moreover, this question of the monks sleep, being involved 
in that of the Night Office, is not out of place amid liturgical legisla 
tion, and Rules anterior to St. Benedict frequently treated the two 

The regulation with which the chapter opens, that each brother 
should have a separate bed, seems to us nowadays quite superfluous. 
It is mere elementary decency and indispensable comfort. However, 
the old monastic Rules 1 thought it their duty to make the same provision, 
and Councils have legislated on the matter, 2 doubtless because the con 
trary practice existed in some houses. For manners were simple and 
the mode of life was voluntarily assimilated to that of the poor man and 
the peasant. Monks lay down to rest fully clad, on mats, mattresses, 
or planks. 

So each brother is to receive a bed and bedding (lectisternia), the 
whole being suitable to the poverty and austerity of his way of life 
that is the best explanation of the words pro modo conversations and 
according to the regulations of the Abbot. Our Holy Father keeps 
the list of bedding till Chapter LV. : " For their bedding let a straw 
mattress, blanket, coverlet, and pillow suffice." Monks are not to be 
surprised if their couch is somewhat hard: for it is merely a camp-bed 
whereon they stretch themselves for a few hours, and they themselves 
are soldiers, who, as St. Benedict says presently, should be ready to rise 
at the first signal. Nevertheless, the Abbot may give a more comfortable 
bed to the sick or aged, and adjust the amount and quality of the bed 
clothes to the climate or season. 

Si potest fieri, omnes in uno loco If it be possible, let all sleep in one 
dormiant; si autem multitudo non place; but if the number do not 
sinit, deni, aut viceni cum senioribus permit of this, let them repose by 

1 Except the Regula cujusdam ad virgines, xiv. 

2 Cf. Cone. Turonense II. (567), can. xiv. MANSI ; t f IX. ? col. 795. 

How the Monks are to Sleep 201 

suis, qui super eos solliciti sint, pausent. tens or twenties with the seniors who 
Candela jugiter in eadem cella ardeat have charge of them. Let a candle 
usque mane. burn constantly in the cell until 


Each is to have his own bed; but, so far as possible, there is to be 
one dormitory for all that is to say, for all the professed monks ; for, 
according to the fifty-eighth chapter, novices have separate accommo 
dation: " Let him go into the cell of the novices where he is to meditate, 
to take his meals, and to sleep." St. Benedict wishes to have the perfect 
cenobitical life; so his sons must pray and work and eat together and 
have a common dormitory. 1 This is not, however, an innovation; for 
in the commentary of Martene may be found divers ancient testimonies 
in favour of the dormitory, in particular the witness of St. Caesarius; 2 
and there too may be read the history of the changes in custom with 
regard to this point. For long centuries Benedictine monks slept in a 
dormitory, in beds without screens, generally with the Abbot in the 
midst of them. Provided certain precautions were taken in the interest 
of hygiene and decency, no fault was to be found with this arrangement. 3 
In the fifteenth century the fathers of Cluny and Bursf eld again condemn 
separate cells; but the dormitory is divided into cubicles, which really 
form so many little rooms where each may read and pray in peace. In 
the days when the monk s life was practically all absorbed by the Divine 
Office and manual labour, a brother would not go to the dormitory 
except to sleep or to read by his bed. However, the lectio divina (sacred 
reading) was generally taken in the cloister or the chapter-room, while 
copyists and illuminators worked in a common room known as the 
scriptorium. But the conditions of monastic life became rather different 
with the predominance of intellectual labours, the institution of lay 
brothers, new habits of piety, the intrusion of lay folk into the cloister, 
and the system of beneficed monks with each his separate apartment. 
It was easy to justify the use of cells by precedents taken from the history 
of the Eastern monks, or the monks of St. Martin, or Lerins, etc., and 
from the customs of the Carthusians and Camaldolese. Not to break 
completely with monastic antiquity, the cells were closed by a simple 
screen, or else the door had a small aperture with a movable shutter; 
while the name of " dormitory " was preserved for the corridor on to 
which the cells opened; and, finally, the light which St. Benedict says 
should burn until morning was faithfully kept in this same corridor all 
through the night. 

The Rule does not consider any other arrangement than that of the 
dormitory; yet it leaves it to the Abbot to decide whether to assemble 
all in the same place, or, because of their numbers, to scatter them in 
different rooms, in their groups of ten (deaneries), or with many such 
groups together. In this last case, and in the absence of Abbot and Prior, 

1 CJ. S. GREG. M., Dial, 1. II., c. xxxv. 

2 Reg. ad monach., iii.; Reg. ad virg., vii. 1-1 

3 C/UDALR., Comuet. Clun., 1. II., c. v., ix., x.ConsM. Hirsaug., 1. I., c. Ixix., Ixx. 

2O2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

the monks were placed under the more immediate responsibility and 
supervision of their respective deans (that is the meaning here of the 
words senioribus suis). It was partly in order to enable the deans to 
exercise vigilance that the old customaries regulate so minutely the 
lighting of the dormitory. This was done, says Calmet, " by lights of 
wax, tallow, oil, wood, rush, or reed, but principally by torches of pine 
or fir." If we are to believe certain commentators, the deans must 
have had no right to close their eyes at all during the whole night; 
but St. Benedict makes no such demand of them; they could assure 
themselves that all was going well with less trouble, and go their rounds 
from time to time, as the customaries provide. 

Vestiti dormiant, et cincti cingulis Let them sleep clothed, and girded 

aut funibus, et cultellos ad latus non with belts or cords but not with 

habeant dum dormiunt, ne forte per knives at their sides, lest perchance 

somnium vulnerentur dormientes; et they wound themselves in their sleep 

ut parati sint monachi semper ; et facto and thus be always ready, so that when 

signo absque mora surgentes, festinent the signal is given they rise without 

invicem se praevenire ad opus Dei, cum delay, and hasten each to forestall 

omni tamen gravitate et modestia. the other in going to the Work of God, 

yet with all gravity and modesty. 

Monks must sleep clothed, and not, under the pretext of simplicity, 
in the manner of many of the ancients or of the peasants of Campania. 
Their clothing for the night, if not the same as that for the day, shall 
at any rate consist of the same elements viz., the tunic, worn near the 
skin like a shirt and with its folds gathered in by a belt; probably also 
stockings or light shoes (pedules), which will be spoken of in Chapter LV. ; 
finally the cowl, for our Holy Father writes in the same chapter: " It 
is sufficient for a monk to have two tunics and two cowls, on account 
of the nights and the need of washing." Drawers were given only to 
those on a journey. The scapular, being a working garment (propter 
opera) was out of place. It would seem that the belt used at night 
was different from that used during the day; the latter was the bracile, 
a large cincture acting as a pouch, while at night any sort of girdle would 
serve, of leather or cord: "girded with belts or cords, but not with 
knives at their sides." 1 Our Holy Father orders that their large knives, 
which were used for the most diverse purposes, should not, as in the 
daytime, be fastened to the belt : for it would be easy, even though the 
knife were in a case, to wound oneself in the unconscious movements 
of sleep, or to strike one s neighbours with it in the course of a nightmare. 

When our Holy Father and other legislators bade monks keep their 
religious habit when sleeping, or at least some part of this habit, it was 
in the first place from motives of decency and poverty: for that was all 
the clothes they had. It was also from devotion to the vesture which 
symbolized their profession, and because it was a safeguard against the 
attacks of the devil. St. Benedict adds: " Let them sleep clothed and 
girded , . , and thus be always ready." The monk, as the soldier of 
l According to D. BVT^ER: ? cultellos . . , 

How the Monks are to Sleep 203 

Christ, should be always ready to run to the Work of God. Perhaps 
we have in this passage an allusion to the Gospel words : " Let your loins 
be girt and lamps burning in your hands. And you yourselves like to 
men who wait for their lord " (Luke xii. 35-6). As soon as the appointed 
signal sounded (Chapter XLVII.) all rose, without discussing the point 
with their pillows, and, probably leaving for the daytime the business 
of a quick toilet and change of habit, went down immediately to the 
oratory. 1 If there is one reason for regretting the ancient arrangement 
of the monastic dormitory, it is that it made it difficult for the lazy 
to indulge their laziness. A man might close his eyes and hide as well 
as possible under the coverlet, but it would be vain; 2 for he would not 
escape the feeling that he was a blot on the general promptness. The 
brethren have to be prompt and to strive who should be the first at the 
Work of God, yet with all gravity and modesty, adds our Holy Father 
prudently. It is the last time of all in which to indulge in small jests, 
or to rush madly down stairs and corridors, and in Chapter XLIII. 
St. Benedict repeats both counsels. 

We should remember and practise the instruction : " When the signal 
is given . . . rise without delay." We must not rise piecemeal, bit 
by bit, but immediately and as it were mechanically: it is easiest in th<* 
end. The Divine Office, both the work and our disposition towards it, 
will suffer from the unhappy self-indulgence and petty calculation which 
give us an additional twenty minutes of sleep every morning. Eight 
hours of sleep is more than was granted by old rules of health: 

Sex horas dormisse sat est, pueroque senique; 
Da septem pigro: nulli concesseris octo. 3 

And even though punctual rising imply some weariness and morti 
fication, let us face it resolutely. It is by such courage in details that 
we come to be morally stronger, more fully masters of our body, and lords 
over our passions. Moreover, the most wholesome mortifications are 
those which enter into the tissue of everyday life and are with difficulty 

Adolescentiores fratres juxta se non Let not the younger brethren 

habeant lectos, sed permixti cum have their beds by themselves, but 
senioribus. Surgentes vero ad opus among those of the seniors. And 
Dei, invicem se moderate cohortentur, when they rise for the Work of God, 
propter somnolentorum excusationes. let them gently encourage one another, 

because of the excuses of the drowsy. 

These few lines are intended to secure the discipline of the dormi 
tory and that moderate haste which has just been mentioned. In 
Chapter XLIII. St. Benedict fixes the order which the monks are to 
take in all assemblies of the brethren: precedence being determined by 

1 Cf. MARTNE, De antlq, monach. rit., 1. I., c. i. 

2 The dark lantern of the Claustral Prior or the circa tores easily found out those who 
lingered in bed or continued their sleep in the church. Cf. UDALR., Conwet. G/t/., 
1. II., c. viii. BERNARD., Ordo Clun., P. I., c. nl-Consttt. Htrsaug., 1. 1., c. xxvm. 

3 Six hours sleep for old man and boy, seven for the sluggard, eight f 

204 Commentary on the Rule of Sf. Benedict 

the date and hour of "conversion." In this place our Holy Father 
makes an exception of the case when the accident of their entry into 
religion has grouped many young religious together. Children and young 
people are great sleepers. These "younger brethren," if together in 
the dormitory, might either not wake, or be only too happy to enter into 
a conspiracy for mutual indulgence. They might often, too, be tempted 
to frolics. To obviate these various dangers St. Benedict would have 
their beds put among those of the older monks. The term senioribus 
(seniors), since it is contrasted with adolescentiores (younger monks), 
and is not as before accompanied by the possessive pronoun suis (their) 
should here be understood to mean religious of riper years and not the 
deans ; the latter, besides, would have been too few for the plan proposed. 
If we understand the words pro modo conversations at the beginning of 
the chapter to mean that the beds were arranged according to age, 
temperament, and gravity, we must admit, with some commentators, 
that St. Benedict gives the same counsel twice. 

"When they rise." Not the young only must be encouraged: all 
the monks are to do this service for one another. The sleepy have 
always plenty of bad excuses for not rising, as nightmare, indigestion, 
cramp, headache, or the signal was not quite heard. These are the 
somnolentorum excusationes. St. Benedict, in the interests of the Office 
and of the common observance, empowers us to destroy all these illusions 
by discreet exhortation, moderate; a little noise is enough, or at need 
a shake of the bed. Would a few words be permitted ? And does our 
Holy Father intend to make an exception to the rigid law of the night 
silence ? It is not unlikely. Besides, we do not know when this time 
of silence ended, and it may have been precisely at the hour of rising 
and at the beginning of the monastic day. St. Basil recommends us 
to give the knocker-up a good reception, to welcome gratefully him who 
comes to draw us out of the humiliating state of sleep, wherein the soul 
loses self-consciousness, and to invite us to the work of glorifying God. 1 

We may add a final observation connected with the general subject 
of the chapter. Some people, before they go to sleep, review the 
intellectual work of the day so as to fix and assimilate the results; which 
is a good practice, if it be brief. St. Teresa tells us that she never went 
to sleep without thinking of the Garden of Olives, of that dreadful 
night and of the agony of Our Lord : which is a far better practice. The 
last thought of our day is of very great importance, for it influences our 
sleep and influences the morrow. It is quite possible for us to consecrate 
to God even the unconscious moments of slumber. Our last thought 
is like a seed entrusted silently to the earth: lerra ultro fructificat (The 
earth giveth fruit of itself); while it fades away, its blessed influence 
sinks slowly into our souls, impregnates them and permeates the whole. 

1 Reg. contr.) Ixxv., Ixxvi. 



THE duty of supervision and correction having been entrusted to 
the deans, they could not be left without the means to deal with 
non-observance of rule; therefore this chapter and the seven 
succeeding ones treat of punishment and the methods of its 
application. 1 All the old Rules abound in disciplinary provisions, and 
we shall have occasion to notice some of the items which St. Benedict 
has borrowed from them. 2 But nowhere before had a legislator formu 
lated a code of such perfect sobriety, so prudent, discreet, and gentle 
in its holy rigour. 3 The evolution of manners has profoundly modified 
since his day both the nature of offences and the character of punishment ; 
yet it is still useful to study the ideas of our Holy Father concerning the 
difficult duty of correction, even though the letter of his provisions has 
been in great measure abrogated by custom. 

We may fix at once the plan of these eight chapters. The twenty- 
third enumerates first the principal faults to be punished, and then 
commences to describe the progressive series or hierarchy of corrections 
according to the Rule viz., two secret admonitions, a public rebuke, 
excommunication, or corporal punishment. This is not an exhaustive 
list; but with the twenty-fourth chapter begins a long digression on 
excommunication, which is of two kinds, excommunication from meals 
(XXIV.), excommunication from meals and choir (XXV.). The two 
chapters that follow treat, the one of unlawful intercourse with the 
excommunicate (XXVI.), the other of lawful intercourse with them and 
the solicitude of the Abbot in their regard (XXVII.). Then St. Bene 
dict resumes and completes, in the twenty-eighth chapter, the enumera 
tion of the various methods of repression and cure viz., the rod, earnest 
prayer, and, if all else is unavailing, expulsion. The twenty-ninth 
chapter fixes the number of times and the conditions under which 
expelled or renegade monks may be reinstated. Finally, the thirtieth 
chapter forms a little codicil on the punishments suitable for the young. 
Farther on, in Chapters XLIII.-XLVI, our Holy Father takes occasion 
to complete his code of punishments, treating of penances for faults 
of a less serious kind than those he deals with here. And in many part 
of the Rule he uses the threat, in passing, of one or other of the monast 

i According to Abbot HERWEGEN, the eight chapters of this penal code would 
originally have formed a special fascicle, more for the use of the superior than of t 
monks; in the final redaction of the Rule they got the place they now have by pure chanc 
(Geschichte der benediktiniscben Professformel, p. 23, note i). 

* Consult the commentaries of MEGE, MARTENE, CALMET.-MiNARD, op. at., 
c. xxx.-xxxix.-H^FTEN, 1. VIII.-D. HESSE, Les Moines d Orient, chap. ix. 

3 Compare the Rule of ST. PACHOMIUS, especially Nos. clx. or 


206 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

DE EXCOMMUNICATIONS cuLPARUM. If any brother shall be found con- 

Si quis frater contumax, aut inobe- tumacious, or disobedient, or proud, 

diens, aut superbus, aut murmurans, or a murmurer, or in any way opposed 

vel in aliquo contrarius existens sanctae to the Holy Rule, and the orders of his 

regulae, et praeceptis seniorum suorum, seniors, and a contemner : 
contemptor repertus fuerit: 

We may note, first of all, that the faults contemplated by St. Benedict 
in this paragraph have their common basis in a rebellious will; or rather 
that he is concerned with this only, having no intention of cataloguing 
the infinite variety of offences, of which only a few are mentioned in 
the course of the Rule. Penances may be imposed for purely formal 
faults, so as to prevent negligence and make conscience more delicate; 
but severe treatment, with the rigour implied in these penal arrange 
ments, is not meted out to imperfections; for there is not sufficient 
matter. Nor again is severity used against faults of thoughtlessness, 
ignorance, or impulse. Following the example of God, who considers 
only what comes from our deliberate will (Matt. xv. 17-20), St. Benedict 
is severe only with perversity of will, in its most formidable external 
manifestations. 1 There is, in the first place, formal rebellion. Con- 
tumacia (contumacy) is refusal to obey, directed against a present 
authority, open and obstinate resistance. It is audacious and insolent 
disobedience. Next comes grave disobedience, with no admixture of 
bravado; it is refusal to submit to the Rule or to some order that has 
been given. Then comes pride, habitual self-exaltation, self-inflation, 
and the worship of one s own worth, which is at bottom the secret 
principle of every failing in monastic life and the poisoned root of all 
the faults spoken of here. 

Nothing of all this is very attractive; it reveals the beast, headstrong 
and restive: " Become not like the horse and the mule who have no 
understanding" (Ps. xxxi. 9). And yet we can see clearly that what 
our Holy Father detests most vigorously and most constantly denounces 
is a disposition to murmur: "or a murmurer." The murmurer is a 
sorry being, and it is just because he is such that he is a grumbler, 
discontented with everything and always in opposition. Yet he falls 
into line, he is in a material sense almost correct; and at need he may even 
be obsequious. He has not the unhappy courage of downright dis 
obedience, for he does what he is told, though with a groan. But he 
carries here and there, to souls which he feels are prepared by their 
weakness and their sufferings, the accursed gospel of his murmuring. 
He is mean and cowardly, and at the same time dangerous. One might 
almost prefer the contumacious man, and the violence of his resistance, 
to the base and underhand scheming of the murmurer. 

Vel in aliquo . . . Calmet enumerates the various meanings which 

1 Si quis autem murmuraverit, vel contentiosus extiterit, aut referens in aliquo con- 
trariam voluntatem pr&ceptis . . . (S. MACAR., Reg.) xii.). Si inobediens quis fuerit, 
aut contentiosus, aut contradictor, aut mendax, et est perfricta frontis . . . (S. PACHOM., 
Reg., clxv. Cf. ibid., cl.). 

Of Excommunication for Faults 207 

may be given to this section. The most natural is the following: " or 
else if he be found contemptuous, transgressing in some way or other 
the Holy Rule and the orders of his seniors, the deans." It forms a 
fifth kind of offence, being added to open resistance, serious disobedience, 
pride, and murmuring, and consists in the breaking of the Rule, accom 
panied with contempt. We may repeat that there could be no question 
of visiting every failing, no matter what, with the severity of the 
established penal code. But a want of harmony which may be slight 
and momentary may also become serious, constant, and unmanageable, 
and constitute what is called contempt; or if it be not formal contempt, 
which happily is very rare, at least it will be equivalent and practical 
contempt. Probably the evil dispositions here enumerated imply 
theological culpability, but St. Benedict does not consider them from 
that point of view; he punishes them only as contrary to monastic 
observance and the public promises of our profession. 

... hie secundum Domini nostri prae- ... let him, according to Our Lord s 
ceptum admoneatur semel et secundo commandment, be once or twice 
secrete a senioribus suis. Si non privately admonished by his seniors, 
emendaverit, objurgetur publice coram If he do not amend, let him be rebuked 
omnibus. Si vero neque sic correx- in public before all. But if even then 
erit, si intelligit qualis poena sit, ex- he do not correct himself, let him be 
communicationi subjaceat. Sin autem subjected to excommunication, pro- 
improbus est, vindictae corporali sub- vided that he understand the nature 
datur. 1 of the punishment. Should he, how 

ever, prove froward, let him undergo 
corporal chastisement. 

This is, for ordinary cases, the procedure to be followed in the 
correction of the brethren; St. Benedict gives elsewhere the special 
points to be observed in the correction of deans, the Prior, and priests. 
He lays it down too, in Chapter LXX., that if a fault be public and such 
as to give scandal, it should receive an appropriate chastisement : " Let 
such as offend herein be rebuked in the presence of all, that the rest may 
be struck with fear." But so long as faults are not plainly scandalous, 
whatever be their gravity in other respects, the Holy Rule employs 
indulgence and pity. It is clearly inspired by the counsel of Our Lord 
in the Gospel: " But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go and 
rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou 
shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee : take with thee one 
or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word 
may stand. And if he will not hear them : tell the church. And if he 
will not hear the church : let him be to thee as the heathen and publican " 

1 Cum vero inventa f tier it culpa, ille qui culpabilis invent tur, corripiatur ab Abbate 
secretius. Quod si non sufficit ad emendationem, corripiatur a paucis senioribus. Quod 
si nee sic emendaverit, excommunicetur (Reg. Orient., xxxii.)- Next come some particulars 
concerning excommunication from meals and prayer, and on satisfaction, almost in tli 
same terms as those of our Rule; then a threat addressed to anyone who should 
with a rebellious monk: simili modo culpabilem judicandum (xxxui.); finally sentei 
of exclusion is pronounced against the incorrigible monk ne vitioipsius aln penclit 

208 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

(Matt, xviii. 15-17). So a private warning is first given and, if need be, 
repeated; and this is to be done by those only who hold a position of 
authority (see Chapter LXX.) i.e., the Abbot and the deans or seniors. 

If secret admonition has no effect, then the delinquent is rebuked 
in public, and this is the second stage. The third consists in excom 
munication or corporal chastisement, for there are two methods of pro 
cedure according to the character and temperament of the delinquent. 
In the second chapter our Holy Father distinguished two classes of 
characters to which the Abbot should apply different treatment : " Those 
of good disposition and understanding let him, for the first or second 
time, correct only with words ; but such as are f reward and hard of heart, 
and proud, or disobedient, let him chastise with bodily stripes at the 
very first offence." It is hardly probable that in this passage St. Benedict 
would absolutely deprive of the double admonition these rough or 
rebellious natures, for it would seem from Chapter XXIII. to be part 
of the procedure to be applied to all. In the second chapter he is 
speaking in rather a general fashion about diversity of treatment and 
observes that one or two reprimands are enough for some, while others 
only yield to the argument of force. It would be waste of time, in the 
case of the latter, to indulge in many verbal rebukes and to delay punish 
ment; the evil must be at once eradicated from the sensitive nature by 
methods which appeal to sense. And since the ineffectiveness in many 
cases of the most severe rebukes has been established, we then pass at 
once to the third stage in the procedure of correction. But this will not 
here be excommunication, for the improbus (froward) will either be 
glad of it as a new way of escaping observance, or else will not understand 
its nature or feel its sting. 1 

We shall explain excommunication in the succeeding chapters and 
describe its nature; in this place a word may be said about corporal 
punishment. Our forefathers did not hesitate to have recourse to it; 
and our Holy Father, who threatens offenders with it more than once 
in his Rule, only needed to remember the Rules of St. Pachomius and 
St. Csesarius, the Lives of the Fathers, and, in a word, all tradition. 
The most common penances were reduction of food and drink, confine 
ment, 2 and compulsory tasks ; but above all there were the rod, the whip, 
and the ferula, the punishments of bad servants and children. Long 
before the rise of that voluntary practice of penance which St. Peter 
Damian propagated, the " discipline " was a penance in monastic 3 and 
indeed in ecclesiastical use, for certain Councils prescribe it for refractory 
clerics. In St. Benedict s language the word disciplina has various 
meanings, which can be determined only by the context. Thus in 
Chapter II. it means a line of practical conduct; in Chapter VII. the 
spiritual life and moral perfection; in Chapters LVI., LXII., LXIII., 

1 Cf. S. BASIL., Reg. brev., xliv. 

2 Cf. CALMET, Commentary on Chapter XXV. 

3 Read H^SFTEN, 1. VIII., tract, v. MARTENE, De antiq. monach. rit., 1. II., 
c. xi., col. 229 sq. CALMET, Commentary on Chapter III. 

Of Excommunication for Faults 209 

and LXXI. regularity, good order and its safeguards; in Chapters 
XXXIV. and LV. a punishment or correction of some sort; in 
Chapter XXIV. corporal punishment, whether fasting or the rod. 
Disciplina regularis, disciplina regulce, mean the sum of all monastic 
observances or submission to these observances (LX., LXIL); finally, 
disciplina regularis is either the graduated body of corrective methods 
provided by the Rule, or some of the degrees, and perhaps the punish 
ment of the rod alone (III., XXXIL, LIV., LXV., LXX.). 

Nowadays, when a monk is to be punished with the discipline 
a thing of extremely rare occurrence he is himself charged with the 
execution of the sentence, out of the reach of curious eyes, and with 
no very formidable instrument. But things were not done quite in 
that way in the times of our ancestors. To begin with, this punishment 
while not everywhere so common as in the regime of St. Columbanus, 
where strokes of the whip were current coin was by no means unusual. 
It took place most frequently in public and in full chapter. The rod 
or whip was manipulated by the Abbot in person, or by a brother 
expressly deputed for this charitable duty. At Cluny, 1 as at Citeaux, 
and to some degree everywhere, the blows fell on the bare shoulders, 
at least when it was a question of serious faults. The number of blows 
did not generally exceed thirty-nine, which was the Jewish measure, 
five times applied to the Apostle by his fellow-countrymen: " Of the 
Jews five times did I receive forty stripes save one" (2 Cor. xi. 24). 
In order not to violate the Law, which prescribed forty as the maximum 
(Deut. xxv. 3), they chose to keep below that number. The old monks, 
less scrupulous than the Pharisees, sometimes gave as many as a hundred 
stripes to great offenders. " Let him be extended and receive a hundred 
lashes," says the Rule of St. Fructuosus. 2 The Penitential of St. Colum 
banus speaks of a hundred and even of two hundred stripes ; but the same 
code of punishment has this provision: " Let no more than twenty-five 
stripes be given at a time." The Rule of the Master is more formidable 
still : " Let them be beaten with rods to death " 3 that is to say, observes 
Calmet, 4 "to the limit of endurance, with extreme rigour: for it was 
never really done to the death, and even in profane authors the phrase 
catdere ad necem (beat to death) is not to be taken literally, but as a 
figure of speech." A capitulary of Charlemagne, 5 reproduced by the 
Council of Frankfort in A.D. 794, thinks it necessary to urge Abbots not 
to put out the eyes or cut off the limbs of their monks " whatever be 
the fault committed " : that kind of punishment should be left to seculars. 

We need not either deplore or regret the severities of former days. 
When characters were ruder and less refined by a long process of educa 
tion, when they sometimes stipulated for the benefits of confinement 

1 C/. PIGNOT, Hist, de VOrdre de Cluny, t. II., pp. 400-406. See statute Ixiii. of 

*C.xv. 3C xm - 

4 Commentary on Chapter XXVIII. 

5 M. G. H., Le$um, Sectio II., Capital. Regum Franc., t. I., p. 63. 

2 1 o Commentary on the "Rule of St. Benedict 

or severe flogging as a precaution against their falls, this severity of 
regular discipline was often the only means of overcoming the rebellion 
of sense or the nerves. We should remember also that offences 
and misdemeanours of monks or clerics did not generally come before 
civil tribunals, so that it was necessary that ecclesiastical or monastic 
superiors should enforce the law themselves. All this is now changed; 
and if there occur disorders in face of which monastic authority is power 
less, yet we must recognize that the dignity of monastic life has gained 
by the change. Therefore should monasticism, with all the more care, 
recruit itself from among those whose obedience is voluntary, eager, 
and joyous. 



QUALIS DEBEAT ESSE MODUS EXcoM- The measure of excommunication 

MUNICATIONIS. Secundum modum or chastisement should be meted out 

culpae, excommunicationis vel disci- according to the gravity of the offence, 

plinae debet extendi mensura : qui the estimation of which shall be left 

culparum modus in Abbatis pendeat to the judgement of the Abbot. If 

judicio. Si quis tamen f rater in levio- any brother be found guilty of lighter 

ribus culpis invenitur, tantum a mensae faults, let him be excluded only from 

participatione privetur. the common table. 

GRACE pokes fun cleverly at the Stoics who asserted that there 
was no difference between offences, all being equally grave: 


Nec vincet ratio hoc, tantumdem ut peccet idemque, 

Qui teneros caules alieni fregerit horti, 

Et qui nocturnus divum sacra legerit. Adsit 

Regula, peccatis quae poenas irroget zequas, 

Ne scutica dignum horribili sectere flagello. 1 

Our Holy Father satisfies these requirements of Roman good sense 
and universal prudence in laying it down that the mode and measure 
of chastisement shall be proportionate to the nature and malice of the 
offence; 2 so there are to be different degrees, not only in corporal 
correction (disciplina), but in excommunication itself. Yet in order 
to avoid disputes, it is to be the Abbot s duty to estimate the gravity of 
offences and to fix the punishment incurred. Not that the Abbot may 
at his pleasure modify the objective gravity of faults, or put anything 
he likes under grave obligation (sub gravi) ; but he has the full right, in 
the interests of good observance, to decree severe penalties against faults 
otherwise light, which threaten to become chronic and to harm the com 
munity. This determination of offence and penalty is left, not to his 
caprice, but to his judgement and his conscience: "shall be left to the 
judgement of the Abbot." 

St. Benedict has not thought it necessary to enlarge on the character 
and measure of corporal punishment, but he is anxious to be precise 
with regard to excommunication. Although a great deal of power is 

1 Satires, 1. I., iii., 

Nor can right reason prove the crime the same, 

To rob a garden, or, by fear unawed, 

To steal by night the sacred things of God. 

Then let the punishment be fairly weighed 

Against the crime; nor let the wretch be flayed, 

Who scarce deserved the lash. (Trans., FRANCIS.) ^ 

2 Digne correptus secundum arbitrium senioris vel modum culpa (S. MACAR., Reg., xn.) 
Pro qualitate culp<e erit excommunicatio (Reg. I., SS. PATRUM, xv.). Cf. Reg- Orient., 
xxxii. S. CAESAR., Reg. ad virg., xi. 


212 Commentary on the Rule of Sf. Benedict 

left with the superior, yet he cannot punish lighter offences (lighter is 
used by St. Benedict in a relative sense only) save by excommunication 
from tne common table. The other form of excommunication excluded 
a man at one and the same time from table, oratory, and intercourse 
with his brethren. Many Rules before the time of our Holy Father, 
that of St. Caesarius for example, mention this twofold excommunication. 
It is not impossible that the Church herself was inspired by monastic 
legislation, in making a clear distinction 1 between the greater excommu 
nication, which cuts a man off from the society of the faithful, and the 
lesser excommunication which deprives him only of certain spiritual 
advantages, of the sacraments, and of the exercise of jurisdiction. The 
Apostles themselves seem to have made distinctions and shades of 
difference in the severity of excommunication; we might study and 
compare the character and effects of excommunication as pronounced 
by St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John. 

Commentators compare monastic excommunication with that pro 
nounced by the Church and enquire what is its value and scope. I think 
we may support the opinion of Calmet. Whatever were the limits in 
St. Benedict s time to the privilege of exemption, it is not open to doubt 
and the very text of the Rule proves it emphatically that an Abbot 
possessed sufficient authority to pronounce a sentence of excommunica 
tion; it was the exercise of a power of jurisdiction, not of orders. And 
the effects of this sentence were identical with those of the Church s 
excommunication; the only difference lay in the immediate source of 
the excommunication and the special state of the monk so punished. 
The better to understand the scope of monastic excommunication we 
should remember the hierarchical constitution of the ancient Church 
and the bond of solidarity which held all its parts together. First one 
was in communion with a bishop and the faithful of a diocese, and then 
by means of this incorporation in a particular church one was a member 
of the Church universal, becoming part of the larger society by means 
of the lesser. To be admitted into special communion with another 
diocese it was necessary to produce litterce formates. Many Councils 
speak of these testimonials and our Holy Father himself emphasizes 
the need of them. They showed that a man was at peace with his 
church of origin, whether monastic or secular. Sentence of excom 
munication pronounced by one bishop was notified to others from place 
to place, and the person affected, by the sole fact that he was excluded 
from the communion of his bishop, was excluded from the communion 
of the whole Church. Now a monastic family formed a small autono 
mous church in the bosom of the larger diocesan family. From the 
day of his profession a monk was a member of the Universal Church by 
means of his union with his monastic order, and only so. If he were 

1 In the early centuries there were different degrees of penance and excommuni 
cation: see J. MORINUS, Commentarius historicus de disciplina in administratione sacra- 
menti peenitentiee. GABRIEL ALBASPINJEUS, Observations ecclesiastics, 1. II. JACQUES 
, Traicte des excommunications et monitoires. 

What the Measure of Excommunication should be 213 

regularly excommunicated by his Abbot, and that for faults against 
ordinary morality or the special obligations of his state, he found himself 
ipso facto outside the Church, and was so regarded by all Christians. 
St. Gregory in the Life of our Holy Father relates how the man of God 
threatened two incorrigible nuns with excommunication, and the claim 
does not seem to him extraordinary; he merely expresses admiration 
for the fact that St. Benedict s threat was sufficient for God, that He 
treated these religious who had died in their sin as excommunicated, 
and then ratified, beyond the grave, the removal of the excommunica 
tion pronounced by His servant. The whole chapter is of very great 
interest. 1 

Privati autem a mensae consortio, And this shall be the rule for one 

ista erit ratio : ut in oratorio Psalmum deprived of the fellowship of the table : 

aut Antiphonam non imponat, neque he shall intone neither psalm nor 

Lectionem recitet, usque ad satisfac- antiphon in the oratory, nor shall 

tionem. Refectionem autem cibi post he read a lesson, until he have made 

fratrum refectionem accipiat, mensura satisfaction. Let him take his meals 

vel hora qua pra3viderit Abbas ei alone, after those of the brethren, in 

competere: ut si verbi gratia fratres the measure and at the time that the 

reficiunt sexta hora, ille frater nona; si Abbot shall think best for him; so that 

fratres nona, ille vespertina; usque if , for example, the brethren eat at the 

dum satisfactione congrua veniam sixth hour, let him eat at the ninth : 

consequatur. if they eat at the ninth, let him eat 

in the evening, until by proper satis 
faction he obtain pardon. 

Therefore the first and more gentle form of excommunication after 
admonitions was decreed against him who suffered himself to fall into 
offences, serious undoubtedly, but less grave than those presently to be 
mentioned. It meant first of all a penalty in the oratory. The guilty 
monk was not excluded from conventual prayer, but he no longer had 
the right to be heard in any special way, and was forbidden any individual 
part. He did not give out or intone any psalm or antiphon, 2 and recited 
no lesson; but he could, perhaps for the Rule does not give us certain 
information on this point mingle his voice with the voices of the choir. 
Certain later monastic customs forbade him to take his part in the con 
ventual offering, or the kiss of peace, or the communion, or to celebrate 
Mass in public, etc. This isolation was to last until he had made fitting 
satisfaction and received absolution from the Abbot (see the last words 
of Chapter XLIV.). We must not confuse this excommunication with 
the penance imposed on monks who neglected to take their part in the 
prayers before a meal (Chapter XLIII). 

The refectory was the chief scene of the lesser monastic excommunica 
tion: whence its name of excommunication a mensa. The monk still 
appeared in the oratory, for a part of conventual life might there be left 
him; but he was banished from the common table. He took his food 

1 Dial., 1. II., c. xxiii. ,. , 

8 The reader should remember what was said in chapter ix. concerning St. B< 

214 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

alone, and that after the meals of the brethren. The words " in the 
measure and at the time that the Abbot shall think best for him " are not 
in the manuscripts and have been borrowed from the next chapter; 
nor is there any parallel between the conditions of the two sorts of ex 
communicated; and, as is remarked by commentators, the meals of one 
excommunicated a mensa were diminished only if he was unrepentant. 
His meals were merely put later: when his brethren, for instance, took 
their meal at the sixth hour that is to say, during the whole summer save 
on fast days the excommunicated monk took his at the ninth; when the 
community had theirs at the ninth hour that is to say, from the begin 
ning of the monastic Lent to the beginning of Lent proper the excom 
municated monk took his at the hour of Vespers (Chapter XLL). In this 
matter, however, St. Benedict does not intend to lay down a complete 
and rigorous rule; it was the Abbot s business to decide according to the 
individual case. The penalty was to last until the monk, having made 
suitable satisfaction, received his pardon. 


DE GRAVIORIBUS cuLPis. Is frater Let that brother who is found 
qui gravioris culpae noxa tenetur, sus- guilty of a more grievous offence be 
pendatur a mensa simul et ab oratorio, excluded both from the table and from 

the oratory. 

GIAVER faults entail a more severe form of excommunication, 
excluding both from table and from oratory. We find a list 
of the chief faults of this kind in various Rules or Constitutions; 
but St. Benedict himself refrained from giving such a list. Yet 
he describes in emphatic words the isolation of the excommunicated 
monk. Save for some exceptions which are provided for later, all 
personal intercourse with him is broken off. We should note, however, 
the singular discretion with which all is done. Monastic excommunica 
tion is not exclusion, an absolute cutting off and final rupture of relations, 
such as is implied in the greater excommunication of the Church of 
to-day. Monastic excommunication resembles that pronounced by 
St. Paul, to which this chapter makes clear allusion; it has a remedial 
character and does not abandon the soul to perdition. There is always 
hope. Before proceeding to expulsion, which is the final act, trial must 
be made to see whether the monk is not terrified by the solitude created 
around him, and whether love of his religious family, more potent than 
punishments and reprimands, will not bring him to repentance. He is 
now scarcely of the monastery, but he is still in the monastery. 

Nullis ei fratrum in ullo jungatur Let none of the brethren consort 

consortio, neque in colloquio. Solus with him or speak to him. Let him 

sit ad opus sibi injunctum, persistens be alone at the work enjoined him, 

in paenitentiae luctu, sciens illam ter- and continue in sorrow of penance, 

ribilem Apostoli sententiam dicentis: remembering that dreadful sentence 

traditum hujusmodi hominem Satanae of the Apostle: " That such a one is 

in interitum carnis, ut spiritus salvus delivered over to Satan for the des- 

sit in die Domini. truction of the flesh, that his spirit 

may be saved in the day of the Lord." 

He is as one plague-stricken, of his own act. Having become the 
enemy of God, he no longer has friends; he has no part any more in the 
community life, from which he has been the first to exclude himself 
by his fault. All avoid him. None may approach him, hold^relations 
with him, or converse with him. There is now no place for him in the 
oratory. 1 Nor is he worthy to share even in the common toil. Not 
that he may wander idle, for he shall have his own fixed task, perhaps 
even a heavier task ; but he shall perform it alone. And, according to the 
custom of certain monasteries, he shall be kept in confinement. He shall 
abide in penance and sorrow, and he shall have leisure, during the long 

1 Cf. Reg. Orient., rxxii. 

2 1 6 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

hours of his solitude, to meditate on and apply to himself the dreadful 
sentence of the Apostle: "such a one is delivered over to Satan 
for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in 
the day of the Lord" (i Cor. v. 5). 1 All this should be well under 

All creation obeys the law of community life; living beings do not 
develop and attain their end save by means of belonging to a society, or 
family, or hierarchical organization, of which the ideal pattern and term 
must be sought in the Blessed Trinity itself. This is true of men in 
general, it is still more true of the Church, and it is true also of a monastic 
body. We win salvation only by help of our family life; God s grace 
comes to us only in this living framework ; we need the help of our Abbot 
and the prayers of our brethren. When sentence of excommunication 
interrupts this blessed current of divine influence and this pulsating life, 
we are no longer secure, or certain of anything. Ceasing to belong to 
the Church, to our spiritual family, to Our Lord and His jurisdiction, 
we pass into another hierarchical system and we are then exposed to the 
terrible familiarities and assaults of Satan. Even so God allowed the 
excommunication, pronounced by St. Peter against Ananias and Saphira, 
to entail their bodily death. The excommunication of Simon Magus 
caused him to be possessed by the devil. That of the incestuous 
Corinthian was intended to preserve the Church from all contagion and 
also to " deliver over to the tortures of the devil the body of the guilty 
man in order that his soul should be saved in the judgement of God." 
As in the story of the unstable monk whom St. Benedict let go, 2 there is 
always a dragon beyond the gates of the monastery, watching for the 
excommunicated and the renegade. 

Doubtless our Holy Father by no means says that the tortures of 
Satan infallibly visit the excommunicated monk; but it is a threat, a 
warning not to remain impenitent, not to relapse ever into such an evil 
state. For in the ages of faith excommunication was regarded as a 
supreme peril, and the mere threat of it would fill souls with religious 
terror. But the sense of the supernatural has diminished; and it is this 
fact, coupled with an indubitable improvement in men s characters, 
which nowadays leads the Church and the monastic order to be very 
sparing of excommunication. Moreover, it happens only too frequently 
that those who deserve excommunication begin by excommunicating 

Cibi autem refectionem solus per- Let him take his portion of food 
cipiat, mensura vel hora qua praevi- alone, in the measure and at the time 
derit ei Abbas competere; nee a quo- that the Abbot shall think best for 
quam benedicatur transeunte, nee him. Let none of those who pass by 
cibus qui ei datur. bless him, nor let the food that is given 

him be blessed. 

1 CASSIAN also cites this text in a passage which inspired St. Benedict in his writing 
of Chapters XXV. and XXVI. Inst., II., xvi. 

2 S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. xxv. 

Of Graver Faults 217 

Being banished from the oratory, the excommunicate monk is a 
fortiori banished from the common refectory. And the penance is 
more severe than in the preceding case; for not only is the hour of his 
meal delayed, its substance also is reduced, so that the rebel is attacked 
both in soul and in body. Our Holy Father leaves it to the Abbot to 
determine the hour and character of his repast. The brethren who meet 
the excommunicated monk do not reply to his salutation, do not say 
Benedicite to him (see Chapter LXIIL). Moreover, the food that is 
given to him does not receive the usual blessing. 

We shall meet in Chapter XLIV. the series of expiations through 
which the excommunicate monk must pass before being reconciled with 
God and his brethren. 



DE us QUI SINE JUSSIONE AfiBATis If any brother presume without 

JUNGUNTUR EXCOMMUNICATIS. Si quis the Abbot s leave to hold any inter- 

frater praesurnpserit, sine jussione course whatever with an excom- 

Abbatis, fratri excommunicato quoli- municated brother, or to speak with 

bet modo se jungere, aut loqui cum eo, him, or to send him a message, let him 

vel mandatum ei dirigere, similem sor- incur the same punishment of excom- 

tiatur excommunicationis vindictam. munication. 

THE efficacy of excommunication would obviously be compromised 
and the remedy lose all its power, if it were not real; isolation is 
essential. But matters sometimes followed such a course as this. 
One of the brethren being excommunicated, certain wrongheaded 
people were tempted to take his part, to support him in his rebellion and 
so stir up something of a revolution. Other religious, united by some 
bond of blood or friendship with the guilty one, endeavoured to persuade 
themselves that nothing should stand in the way of the impulses and ties 
of nature and so broke the law of quarantine. Others finally allowed 
themselves to feel pity at the sight of this poor Holophernes, 1 so wickedly 
banished by the Abbot, and their thoughtless and harmful tenderness 
wrecked a course of treatment which they did not understand. Cassian 
writes as follows on this point : " If a monk be suspended from prayers 
for committing some fault, no one whatever has permission to pray with 
him . . .; and whoever, moved by inconsiderate piety, shall presume 
to hold communion with him in prayer before he be received back by 
a senior, makes himself partaker of his condemnation, for he hands him 
self voluntarily over to Satan, to whom the other had been committed 
for the amendment of his guilt : and he incurs a heavier responsibility 
inasmuch as by holding intercourse with him, whether for talk or for 
prayer, he adds fuel to his insolence and increases for the worse the con 
tumacy of the offender." 2 

Apart from a special order of the Abbot, as explained at greater 
length in the next chapter, every brother who dares to associate with the 
excommunicated monk or to enter into relations with him of whatever 
sort, by conversation, or message, or by acting as his go-between, shares 
in his excommunication and will find himself involved in the same con 
demnation. This provision has seemed harsh to some commentators; 
and the more so because, in Canon Law, to have intercourse with one 
who is under the greater excommunication involves only lesser excom- 

1 An allusion to Racine s epigram on the Judith of Boyer: 

. . . Je pleure, hvilas ! pour ce pauvre Holopherne, 
Si muchamment mis a mort par Judith. 

2 /*/., II., xvL 


Of those who Consort with the Excommunicate 2 1 9 

munication. But it would seem that in early times, among clergy as 
among monks, a notable infringement of the law of excommunication 
implied a full participation in the penalty of the excommunicate; there 
was no distinction made. 1 

1 For instance, the Council of Orleans in 5 1 1 decrees in its xi. canon: De his qui 
suscepta peenitentia religionem suae professions obliti ad sacularia relabuntur, placuit eos 
et a communionc suspendi^ et ab omnium catholicorum convivio separari. Quod si post 
interdictum cum eis quisquam prasumpserit manducare, et ipse communione privetur 
(MANSI, t. VIII. , col. 353). In the collections the authentic canons of the council are 
followed by others, of which the value is unknown; here is one that much resembles the 
text of our Rule: . . . Nullus christianus ei ave dicat, aut eum osculare pr&sumat; . . . 
nemo eijungatur in consortio, neque in aliquo negotio ; et si quis ei se sociaverit, . . . noverit 
se simili percussum anathemate. His exceptis, qui ob bane causam ei junguntur, ut eum 
revocant ab errore^ et provocent ad satisfactionem . . . (MANSI, ibid.) col. 367)- 



QUALITER DEBEAT ESSE soLLiciTUS Let the Abbot take care with all 

ABBAS CIRCA EXCOMMUNICATOS. Omni solicitude of offending brethren, for 

sollicitudine curam gerat Abbas circa " they that are whole need not a 

delinquentes fratres: quia non est opus physician, but they that are sick." 
sanis medicus, sed male babentibus. 

THIS is the final chapter of the digression on excommunication. 
It throws light on the whole subject of monastic penal legislation 
and makes St. Benedict s intention plain; and at the same time 
it reveals to us his fatherly solicitude. We know how variously 
human justice defends its exercise of the right of punishment, even to 
the extent of the death penalty. Some support the claims of absolute 
order, and maintain that those who will not accommodate themselves 
to it by obedience must do so by chastisement. This view is a true one, 
but it is cold and contemptuous ; there is nothing for the guilty man but 
resignation. Others prefer to make the safety of society their basis, 
and punishment is then a security. The penalty, in protecting society 
against a recurrence of the faults punished, has a twofold action, both 
making it impossible for the criminal to do harm, and inspiring others 
with a wholesome fear: Culpam pcena premit comes: again a true view, 
but harsh and frequently ineffective. The Christian and monastic 
rule puts itself in the position of the delinquent, and, without at all 
disregarding the aims just considered, concerns itself before all with his 
correction, regarding him more as a sick brother than as a condemned 
criminal. The ancient Rules and the Lives of the Fathers abound in 
edifying instruction on the mercy due to sinners, but none in our opinion 
contains anything comparable to this chapter, so characteristic of 
St. Benedict, and so full of his fatherly love, grave, strong, and 

Omni sollicitudine . . . Though there be punishment, yet the 
monastery, the " house of God," is not a penitentiary, where the 
rebellious are cured only by violent repression and harsh treatment. 
The Abbot shall employ all possible solicitude and devotedness in favour 
of erring brethren. And as sole reason for this the Holy Rule invokes 
the words once used by Our Lord in justification of His infinite forgiving- 
ness : " They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick " 
(Matt. ix. 12). He came to redeem, to console, to heal; and woe to 
those self-sufficient souls who think they have no need of His compassion 
and His healing. Mercy is Our Lord s predominant virtue; it earned 
for Him the astonishment, the scandal, the very hatred of the evil 
casuists of His time, the Pharisees and doctors of the law. We have only 
to recall the episode of the woman taken in adultery, who was excom- 


The Abbot and the Excommunicate 221 

municated by the doctors and condemned to stoning (John vii. 3-11). 
If God s heart is all goodness, the Abbot, who holds His place in the 
monastery, should always lean towards the side of mercy and love. 

Et ideo uti debet omni modo ut sa- To which end he ought to behave 

piens medicus : immittere quasi occultos in every way as a wise physician, 
consolatores sympaectas, id est, seniores sending as it were secret consolers 
sapientes fratres, qui quasi secrete to sympathize with him that is to 
consolentur fratrem fluctuantem, et say, some brethren of mature years 
provocent eum ad humilitatis satis- and wisdom, who may, as it were 
factionem, et consolentur eum, ne secretly, console the wavering brother, 
abundantiori tristitia absorbeatur; sed induce him to make humble satisfac- 
sicut ait Apostolus: Confirmetur in tion, and comfort him, that he be not 
eo cbaritas, et oretur pro eo ab omnibus, overwhelmed by excess of sorrow; 

but, as the Apostle saith, " Let charity 
be strengthened towards him," and 
let all pray for him. 

Since the Abbot is appointed a physician of souls, 1 he shall act in 
every way 2 like a wise physician : he shall endeavour to find the effective 
remedy, or, rather, endeavour that the remedy of excommunication may 
have its full effect; he shall make use of the various means which his 
charity or experience may suggest to him. He shall, for example, send 
symp&cttf to the excommunicate monk. The words quasi occultos con 
solatores are a later gloss. The meaning of the word sympczcta has been 
much discussed, and very various not to say fantastic etymologies have 
been proposed; scribes too have often ill-treated it. Though the best 
reading is senpectas,it is very probable that the correct spelling of the word 
is sympcecta and that it is a transliteration of the Greek word a-v^Traitcrr)^ 
(from a-vv and Tratfw) and means literally, one who plays with the child, 
or plays with another, a playfellow (collusor). 3 In Christian literature 
before St. Benedict, we find (TVfjLTrai/cTijs employed, and that in the 
figurative sense, only in the Lausiac History of Palladius. The 
History relates how Serapion Sindonita took the notion of selling himself 
to a company of actors, so as to convert them the more easily, and made 
an ascetic a party to his game or pious fraud: Xa/3o>z/ riva o-vfiTraiKTijv 
daKTjTrjv . . . . 4 Our Holy Father uses the word in an analogous 
sense. Because he adds immediately: " that is to say, some brethren of 
mature years and wisdom," it was thought that he was explaining the 
unusual word, and so some read not even senpectas but senipetas i .*., 
men approaching old age. And from this source come some unlikely 
interpretations. St. Benedict does in fact explain himself, but does it 
much more in the words " who may as it were secretly console . . ." 
than in those which follow directly after the phrase " that is to say." 
And his thought is as follows : the Abbot cannot intervene directly and 
himself approach the excommunicate, but he may have recourse to a 

1 S. BASIL., Reg. contr., xxiv. 

2 Omnimodo, in one word, according to the best manuscripts. 

3 Cf. CALMET, in h. I. 

* Hist. Laus., c. Ixxxiii. P.G., XXXIV., 1180; ed. BUTLER, p. 109. 

222 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

stratagem. There are in the community amiable and earnest brethren, 
in whom the excommunicated brother has confidence. They are monks 
of mature years and solid virtue, upon whom the complaints, or even 
the violent recriminations of the condemned man, will have no harmful 
effect; they are also skilful and diplomatic. So the Abbot makes them 
parties to his game of mercy and accomplices of his charity. They shall 
go secretly to find the excommunicated brother, as though of their own 
accord and not as formal ambassadors; and their action will appear to 
him as though merely sanctioned by the Abbot. 

Their function is first to console the brother and then to dispose 
him to amendment. His soul is still in a disturbed state, divided between 
anger and dread, between irritation and anxiety, fluctuantem. The 
loving intervention of the sympcecta has as its object the calming of 
passion and helping of conscience ; it will gently lead the excommunicated 
brother to make humble satisfaction, not from constraint, but from 
the desire to make amends. Yet before all else, as St. Benedict insists, 
he needs to be consoled. The sympactce will see to it that chagrin and 
shame do not crush him, that he be not " overwhelmed by excess of 
sorrow." St. Paul gave this counsel in the case of the incestuous 
Corinthian; and he proceeded to say that at such a critical time charity 
should be great, should show itself, and prevail in the treatment of him 
(2 Cor. ii. 7-8). While the discreet agents of the Abbot show their 
interest in the excommunicated monk directly, all the brethren must 
pray for him. 1 

We are very far in all this from those revengeful forms which human 
justice so readily affects, very far from the pharisaical spirit which 
requires implacable severity, very far from the tendencies, sometimes 
expressed in literature, which acknowledge only the virtue that has 
never fallen, and for which a momentary lapse has no cure but despair 
and suicide. That is the world all through: the most corrupt are the 
most implacable. We may also observe how the provisions of the 
monastic rule realize the ideal form under which penal justice should 
and can be exercised. The right to punish is normally exercised with 
success only by those who have endeavoured to exorcise the fault, who 
have proclaimed the moral law, who have not only refrained from culti 
vating violent and impious passions, the agents of crime, but have striven 
to diminish and, if possible, to suppress all revolutionary instincts. 
When a society incites to evil and corrupts both thought and morals, 
what right has it to set itself up as the judge of its own victims ? 

Magnopere enim debet sollicitu- For the Abbot is bound to use the 

dinem gerere Abbas circa delinquentes greatest care with erring brethren, 

fratres, et omni sagacitate et industria and to strive with all possible pru- 

curare, ne aliquam de ovibus sibi dence and zeal not to lose any one of 

creditis perdat. Noverit enim se in- the sheep committed to him. He 

firmarum curam suscepisse animarum, must know that he has undertaken 

non super sanas tyrannidem : et metuat the charge of weakly souls, and not 

1 Nor does the Rule of ST. C^ESARIUS ad virgines leave the excommunicate in absolute 
solitude: Cum una de spiritualibus sororibus resideat (xxxi.). 

The Abbot and the Excommunicate 223 

Prophetae comminationem, per quern a tyranny over the strong; and let 
dicit Deus: Quod crassum videbatis, him fear the threat of the prophet, 
assumebatis: et quod debile erat, pro- wherein God says: "What ye saw to 
jiciebatis. be fat that ye took to yourselves, and 

what was diseased ye cast away." 

St. Benedict repeats with great emphasis the first words of the 
chapter. The Abbot, he says, should exhibit the greatest solicitude 
with regard to erring brethren, 1 and should run, hasten, and expend all 
possible prudence and zeal, so as not to lose one of the sheep entrusted 
to him. God grant that an Abbot may never hold aloof from an erring 
brother with the scandalized horror of the Pharisee in the presence of 
St. Mary Magdalene ! Nor should he ignore him and abandon the 
excommunicate to his passions and wounded pride, saying: " I cannot 
help it. If he wants to persevere in his rebellion, why, let him do it ! 
I cannot give him my will instead of his own." Obviously you have 
not died for him, or you would throw him over less readily. " Yes, but 
he irritates me. He is so bitter and disloyal. . . ." He is all the more 
your concern. You are not a prince, or a pitiless justiciary, or an execu 
tioner. The Abbot s function, speaking generally, is not to exercise 
a haughty tyranny over strong souls, for God has entrusted to him the 
care and tendance and cure of souls weakly and infirm; and to this shall 
he give his special attention. St. Augustine wrote in the same sense 
of ministers of God living in the world: " Their care should be the cure 
of men rather than men who have been cured. They must endure the 
faults of men so as to cure them, for a plague must be endured before 
it can be cured." 2 So the Abbot must be on his guard against an 
attitude which is very natural, yet very selfish; let him, at need, remember 
the indignation of God, denouncing by the mouth of His prophet the 
harshness and rapacity of the evil pastors of Israel: You took to your 
selves that which seemed to you fat and well-conditioned; but ^ you 
spurned the lean. The whole passage of Ezechiel is an awe-inspiring 
threat (xxxiv. 3-4). But we do not ask the Abbot to be complaisant 
or weak, no more than to open the doors of his monastery to mediocrity 
or wretchedness of every sort. 

Et Pastoris boni pium imitetur Let him imitate the loving example 
exemplum, qui, relictis nonaginta no- of the Good Shepherd, who, leaving 
vem ovibus in montibus, abiit unam the ninety and nine sheep on the 
ovem, quse erraverat, quaerere; cujus mountains, went to seek one which 
innrmitati in tantum compassus est, had gone astray, on whose weakness 
ut earn in sacris humeris suis dignaretur He had such compassion that He 
imponere, et sic reportare ad gregem. vouchsafed to lay it on His own sacred 

shoulders, and thus bring it back to the 

St. Benedict contrasts the conduct of unworthy and mercenary 
shepherds with the example, the " loving example," of the tenderness 
1 The true reading, says D. BUTLER, is certainly currere; St. Benedict develops later 
on this idea of the Good Shepherd running in search of the lost sheep. 
8 De moribus ecclesia cathol, 1. I., c. xxxii. P.L., XXXII., 1339. 

224 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

and condescendence of the Good Shepherd, as portrayed by Our Lord 
Himself in St. Matthew (xviii. 12-14) and in St. Luke (xv. 3-7, cf. 
John x.). The Good Shepherd had a hundred sheep, one of which 
strayed one day far from the flock. Then the Shepherd, leaving the 
ninety-nine in their folds on the hillsides which they pastured, went off 
to find the one deserter. He found it, hurt, perhaps, or refractory. And 
such was His pity for its weakness that He deigned to put it on His 
sacred shoulders and so bring it back to the flock. 1 The Gospel goes on 
to emphasize the joy of the Good Shepherd. And indeed to restore an 
erring soul to Our Lord is the highest joy that can be tasted here below. 
" My brethren, if any of you err from the truth and one convert him : 
he must know that he who causeth a sinner to be converted from the 
error of his way shall save his soul from death and shall cover a multitude 
of sins" (James v. 19-20). It need not be said that this ready and 
untiring condescendence of the Abbot expresses also what all the brethren 
should feel towards one another. There should be a general conspiracy 
of charity " lest he lose any of the sheep committed to him." 

1 ST. BASIL quotes the same gospel parable and the text: non est opus valentibus, etc., 
in a passage which resembles our Rule (Reg. brev., cii.; see also Reg. contr., xxvii.). 





EMENDANTUR. Si quis fratcr frequen 
ter correptus pro qualibet culpa, si 
etiam excommunicatus non emen- 
daverit, acrior ei accedat correctio, id 
est, ut verberum vindicta in eum pro- 

If any brother who has been fre 
quently corrected for some fault, or 
even excommunicated, do not amend, 
let a more severe chastisement be 
applied that is, let the punishment 
of stripes be administered to him. 

OUR Holy Father here returns to the degrees of regular discipline 
which he began to enumerate in the twenty-third chapter. 
First of all he reviews briefly the particular chastisements already 
described: a brother, guilty of one of the faults which deserve 
chastisement, has been frequently corrected i.e., at least three times, 
twice secretly and once in public; he has been excommunicated or has 
suffered corporal punishment. But, for all this, he has not amended. 
Even excommunication has had no result, though it was thought that that 
would cure him. At this stage excommunication is supplemented by a 
more severe chastisement : the guilty man is beaten with rods. Corporal 
punishment is called more severe and more harsh, not because excommu 
nication is a less serious penalty, but because bodily chastisement may 
perhaps more effectively subdue the animal man which has remained 
insensible to spiritual penalties; and also because there is in corporal 
punishment a note of servitude and as it were a stigma of disgrace. In 
the case of one with whom excommunication has not been tried, but 
who has had to submit to fasting or the rod immediately following on 
the admonitions, doubtless the same regime will be continued, only 
the strokes will be laid on somewhat more heavily. 

Quod si nee ita se correxerit, aut 
forte (quod absit) in superbiam elatus 
etiam defendere voluerit opera sua, 
tune Abbas f aciat quod sapiens medicus : 
si exhibuit fomenta, si unguenta adhor- 
tationum, si medicamina Scripturarum 
divinarum, si ad ultimum ustionem ex- 
communicationis vel plagas virgarum, 
et jam si viderit nihil suam prsevalere 
industriam: adhibeat etiam, quod 
majus est, suam et omnium fratrum 
pro eo orationem, ut Dominus, qui 
omnia potest, operetur salutem circa 
infirmum fratrem 

But if even then he do not correct 
himself, or perchance (which God 
forbid !), puifed up with pride, even 
wish to defend his deeds : then let the 
Abbot act like a wise physician. If he 
has applied fomentations and the 
unction of his admonitions, the 
medicine of the Holy Scriptures, and 
the last cautery of excommunication 
or corporal chastisement, and if he 
see that his labours are of no avail, let 
him add what is still more powerful 
his own prayers and those of all the 
brethren for him, that God, who is 
all-powerful, may work the cure of the 
sick brother. 


226 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Plainly, in St. Benedict s eyes, a soul has an absolute value and must 
be treated with boundless patience. He puts the case of the guilty 
man not yet submitting and even daring, in a violent fit of pride, to 
justify himself and invoke right for his side. " Which God forbid !" 
says St. Benedict. Yet he knows too well that it is not unlikely. He has 
elsewhere condemned the unhappy facility which men have of calling 
that good which they desire, of worshipping their own ideas, of justifying 
thus the most shameful excesses. For conscience becomes seared. 
What had hitherto been merely weakness, becomes now a principle 
and a system. Still, there is no question yet of pronouncing irrevocable 

The Abbot must continue to act like a wise physician. 1 He must 
review all the means which he might legitimately use to obtain a cure, 
and must make certain that he has neglected none. He has had, accord 
ing to the methods of ancient medicine, to use every means to make the 
sickness emerge, to draw out to the surface the deep-rooted evil which 
was upsetting the vital functions. First he used fomentations, warm 
applications, fit to persuade the evil to depart; then ointments, the balm 
of his admonitions, as though to soften skin and flesh; and next the 
internal remedy of the Holy Scriptures. The word of God has a sacra 
mental value, and acts on souls like a charm. Its lucid and sweet 
sentences can free the soul from its fever. Obviously admonition, 
whether private or public, and the good advice of the sympcectce should 
be inspired pre-eminently by supernatural doctrine, and remind the 
guilty one of the familiar passages of Holy Scripture, containing the rule 
of morality and monastic perfection. If these preliminary measures 
failed, the Abbot decided to cauterize with the hot iron of excommuni 
cation, or to lance with the sharp points of the scourge. But he may 
be forced to conclude that his skill makes no way against the evil. 

What human effort cannot achieve, prayer may obtain from God. 
For Him no situation is desperate. The treasuries of His mercy hold 
graces capable of converting the most hardened heart. Is He not the 
God who brings the dead to life (Rom. iv. 17) ? " To the Almighty 
Physician nothing is incurable; He gives up none." 2 So let the Abbot 
still act like a wise physician, says St. Benedict; let him use a remedy 
more potent than the others, his own prayers and those of the brethren, 
in order that God, with whom all things are possible, may restore health 
to the sick brother. By this is meant a supplication more insistent and 
more general than that mentioned in Chapter XXVII. ; it is a sort 
of formal suit to God, at once respectful and filial, by the whole com 

Quod si nee isto modo sanatus fuerit, But if he be not healed even by this 

tune jam utatur Abbas ferro abscis- means, then at length let the Abbot 

sionis, ut ait Apostolus : Auferte malum use the sword of separation, as the 

ex vobis. Et iterum: Infidelis si dis- Apostle says: " Put away the evil one 

1 The metaphors which follow are inspired by CASSIAN, Inst., X., vii. 

2 S. AUG., Enarr. II. in Ps. Iviii. 1 1. P.L., XXXVI., 712. 

Of those who, being often Corrected^ do not Amend 227 

cedit, discedat: ne una ovis morbida from you." And again: "If the 
omnem gregem contaminet. faithless one depart, let him depart," 

lest one diseased sheep should taint 

the whole flock. 

Finally, if the unfortunate man is not cured by the last remedy, there 
is nothing for it but amputation. The excommunicated man becomes 
a danger. He may infect the whole community with his malady, for 
one diseased sheep can taint a whole flock. The duty of charity to the 
community always more important than the individual demands 
the removal of any element that is incorrigible, forming as it does a 
scandal and a permanent danger. This is the advice of St. Paul: " Put 
away the evil [or the evil one] from your midst " (i Cor. v. 13). " Nor 
is this done from cruelty, but from mercy, lest he destroy many by the 
infection of his disease," says St. Augustine in a passage which may be 
compared with our description of the degrees of regular discipline. 1 
St. Cyprian, too, writes as follows : " I should not think them worthy to 
mix with virgins, but like infected sheep or sick cattle they should be 
kept away from the virgin flock, holy and pure, lest by contagion they 
should pollute the rest." 2 And the more so as the man is no longer 
merely sick; he is dead. All that the Abbot does is to recognize a 
severance which has already been effected by the expelled man himself. 
He has decided. There is nothing for it but to accept his incorrigible 
blindness: " If the faithless one wishes to go, let him go," says St. Bene 
dict, taking another sentence of St. Paul in an accommodated sense 
(i Cor. vii. 15). 

Expulsion is provided for also in more ancient Rules, for example 
in those of St. Macarius 3 and St. Basil; 4 and St. Benedict clearly has 
some such legislation in his mind. Some Rules did not venture to decree 
expulsion: " Though a man be immersed in an abyss of frequent and 
most serious faults," says St. Isidore, 5 " still he should not be expelled 
from the monastery . . . lest perchance he, who could have been cured 
by a long course of penance, may, when cast forth, be devoured by the 
devil." Seclusion and confinement, perpetual if necessary, were pre 
ferred. But the common law of the Church has recognized the lawful 
ness and expediency of expulsion and has determined the juridical forms 
by which competent authority may proceed to effect it. 

1 Epist. CCXL, u. P.L., XXXIIL, 962. 

2 De habitu virginum, xvii. P.L., IV., 456. The expression ovis morbida occurs 
several times in ST. JEROME: Epist. II. P.L., XXII., 331; Epist. XVI., i. P.L., ibid., 
358; Epist. CXXX. ad Demetriadem, 19. P.L., ibid., 1122. 

3 C. xvii., xxvii.-xxviii. 

* Reg. contr., xxx. Cf. Reg. brev., xxxviii., xliv., Ivii., Ixxxiv., cu. 
5 C. xv. 



Si DEBEANT ITERUM RECiPi FRATRES If any brother, who through his 

EXEUNTES DE MONASTERio. Frater qui own fault departs or is cast out of the 

proprio vitio egreditur, aut projicitur monastery, be willing to return, let 

de monasterio, si reverti voluerit, him first promise entire amendment 

spondeat prius omnem emendationem of the fault for which he left ; and then 

vitii pro quo egressus est, et sic in let him be received back into the 

ultimo gradu recipiatur, ut ei hoc ejus lowest place, that thus his humility 

humilitas comprobetur. may be tried. 

THIS chapter rounds off the last and at the same time softens its 
severity. The incorrigible brother having been expelled may 
presently be moved by grace, so that, like the Prodigal Son, 
returning to himself he desires to go back to God. And while 
speaking of expulsion, our Holy Father allows of another case, where the 
leaving of the monastery is the work of the religious himself, impelled 
by the evil spirit of instability or by some vicious motive or other. 1 
St. Benedict is careful to add "through his own fault": for it may 
occasionally happen that such departure is regular, sanctioned by the 
Abbot or legalized by the Church. Of such cases we shall say nothing, 
as, for instance, of the case where a man thinks it his duty to escape 
from surroundings which appear to him inobservant and disedifying, 
or passes to a stricter form of religious life. Nor again shall we seek to 
determine whether secularization, sought and obtained, is not sometimes, 
to the eye of conscience, a euphemism for religious apostasy. 

Regulus is said to have pleaded earnestly before the Roman Senate 
against an exchange of prisoners between Carthage and the Roman 
State; his view was that a Roman who had suffered himself to be taken 
captive without a struggle, could not afterwards fulfil his duty valiantly. 

Auro repensus scilicet acrior 
Miles redibit ? Flagitio additis 
Damnum ! 2 

A bad soldier restored to the war would prove himself a bad soldier 
again. So to ransom a prisoner was to throw your money away and not 
to gain a soldier. All of which is distinctly Roman in sentiment ; but 

1 D. BUTLER adopts this text: Frater qui proprio vitio egreditur de monasterio, si 
reverti voluerit, spondeat prius omnem emendationem pro quo egressus est. And D. CHAP 
MAN, reviewing Traube, strove to show that the reading of the " received text " and of 
the most ancient manuscripts was a clear case of misguided interpolation (Revue Btncd., 
1898, p. 506). Without disputing the authority of the Carlovingian and Cassinese 
tradition, it is, however, possible to give a probable sense to our text. Why should an 
expelled monk not come to a better mind ? Do not the arrangements of this chapter 
appear to be a natural consequence of what precedes ? 

2 HORACE, Odes, Bk. III., v. 


Are Brethren who leave to he received again ? 229 

St. Benedict s attitude, in opening his arms to the renegade and the 
expelled monk, and giving them the chance of repairing the past by a 
better life, is truly human and is in conformity with the ways of God. 1 
There are two conditions set to this act of mercy, and both have the 
same purpose : to show that the returned brother has nothing in common 
with him who fled or was expelled. St. Benedict lays it down that the 
brother who so presents himself should first of all promise fundamental 
amendment of the fault which occasioned his departure : to this extent 
he is no longer, interiorly in his will, the same man as the former. And 
this change of identity expresses itself externally under a form which has 
no doubt the character of a punishment and a trial, but which may 
also be a delicate and skilful act of considerateness. When he enters he 
takes rank as though he then first came. There has been a misdeal and 
all must begin again. He takes his order anew from entrance and con 
version, and inherits naught from the evil monk who went forth. 
Besides, says our Holy Father, his humility will thus be tested and 
assurance obtained that he has amended and intends to become a new 
man. 2 St. Benedict does not mention other requirements, but it is 
probable that there was a public confession and apology followed by 
absolution, as in the case of the excommunicate (Chapter XLIV.). 
Martene cites in full various ritual forms for the reception of renegades. 

Quod si denuo exierit, usque tertio Should he again depart, let him be 

recipiatur. Jam vero postea sciat, taken back until the third time. But 

omnem sibi reversionis aditum dene- let him know that after this all way of 

gari. return is denied him. 

We have seen how our Holy Father strives to avert and delay 
expulsion; it remains now to observe how this penalty, though the end 
of so long a process, seems to him by no means final. We must admire 
such abounding charity. All other considerations yield to that of 
saving a soul from destruction. A brother leaves for the first time and 
he is received when he returns. A second time he leaves and a second 
time is received on the same terms as before. And the same happens 
after a third departure : " let him be taken back until the third time." 3 
But he must know that henceforth all way of return is barred to him. 
There must be a limit; mercy has not been stinted, but these goings and 
comings must not become a mere game for the runaway and vexation 
for the community; we cannot favour instability, a thing specifically 
combated by our Holy Father. 

Nevertheless, in certain monasteries, for example at Cluny,^ the 
repentant monk was received back after a greater number of fruitless 

1 ST. BASIL is more strict: Reg. f us., xiv. 

2 Qui absque commonitionefratrum recesserit et postea acta panitentia venertt, non ertt 
in ordine suo absque majoris imperio (S. PACH., Reg., cxxxvi.). . 

3 This explanation of usque tertio is proposed by the author of Explication antique 
et bistorique de la Rtgle de saint Benoit, t. I., p. 429- I n this way the reception of t 
monk on his first leaving the world and coming to the monastery is not counted among 
the three receptions. The critical editions read: usque tertio ita recipiatur. 

230 Commentary on the "Rule of St. Benedict 

attempts. They believed that they were thus following St. Benedict s 
true intention. It was observed, with more subtlety than exactitude, 
that the text said that the monk who leaves more than three times must 
know that all return to the monastery is forbidden. Yes, said commen 
tators, he must know that, he must know that he has no right to a fourth 
pardon. The threat will do him good. But the Abbot is free to decide 
differently; and though the door is closed to the monk, the Abbot may 
open it. Peter the Venerable himself had recourse to this kindly trick 
of interpretation in defending to St. Bernard the leniency of Cluny. 
However, he rested his case principally on more solid proofs. Would 
you then, he asked, introduce a new Gospel and put limits to mercy ? 
What was to become of declarations such as that of Our Lord to St. Peter : 
" Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him ? 
Till seven times ? Jesus saith to him : I say not to thee, till seven times, 
but till seventy times seven times" (Matt, xviii. 2I-22). 1 

1 PETRI VENKR., Epist., 1. I., Ep. XXVIII. P.L., CLXXXIX., 127. 


DE PUERIS MINORI ^ETATE, QUALiTER Every age and understanding should 

CORRIPIANTUR. Omnis aetas vel Intel- have its due measure. As often, there- 

lectus proprias debet habere mensuras. fore, as boys, or those under age, or 

Ideoque quoties pueri, vel adolescen- such as cannot fully understand the 

tiores aetate, aut qui minus intelligere greatness of the penalty of excom- 

possunt quanta poena sit excommunica- munication, commit faults, let them 

tionis, hi tales dum delinquunt, aut be punished by severe fasting or sharp 

jejuniis nimiis affligantur, aut acribus stripes, in order that they may be 

verberibus coerceantur, ut sanentur. cured. 

JUST as punishments should be graduated to suit the fault, so should 
they be proportioned to the years, understanding, and education of 
the individual. St. Benedict has already noted this, in the chapter 
on the Abbot and in the twenty-third chapter, so far as concerns 
understanding, but without explicit mention of differences of age. A 
reminder, therefore, at the close of his code of punishments, that many 
of its provisions by no means suited the young, was not out of place. 
" Every age and every degree of intelligence should have its proper 
measure," its own methods of correction: this is the general principle. 
And our Holy Father proceeds at once to apply it to three classes of 
persons: children, adolescents, and those of limited understanding or 
small culture. 

The Rule does not determine the limits of childhood and adolescence, 
and this doubtless of set purpose; for full responsibility and exact dis 
cretion do not come to all at the same age. Farther on (in the seventieth 
chapter) St. Benedict lays it down that in what concerns external 
supervision the conditions of infancy (pueritia) should cease at the 
completion of the age of fourteen that is to say, at the age when Roman 
children generally discarded the toga pratexta* Adolescence, according 
to St. Isidore (who seems in this matter to have inspired the commen 
tators), lasted to the age of twenty-eight. But it is clear that most 
monks could be brought under the full discipline of the Rule long before 
the expiration of this period. St. Benedict does not distinguish between 
boys and the younger religious; what he requires is that there should be 
a special and identical regime for all in whom animal impulses pre 

A first principle in education is to take men on the side by which 
they may be reached: by their intelligence if they have such; by their 
senses if intelligence is not yet sufficiently developed. Now, what is a 
child ? A being, doubtless, rich with future promise, but for the 
present scarce revealing any phenomena but those of the animal life. 

1 Sancta constitution promulgata.pubertatem in masculispost quartum decimum annum 
completumiUicoinitiumaccipeTedisposuimus . . . QUSTINIAN, lnstit.,1., tit. 22;pul 
A.D. 533). 


232 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

As we observed in the second chapter, it is by means of sweetmeats, or 
dry bread and the lash, that we teach him the ABC of conscience, the 
distinction between good and evil. To excommunicate such a one 
would be cruelty and folly; nor should we propose seriously to imprison 
children. In the case of the adolescent, we have got intelligence, but 
also the pride of intelligence as it awakens; there is conscience, but with 
it are crude or violent passions; we have to deal, not with dormant 
powers as in the case of the child, but with rebellion. Finally, by the 
side of these two classes must be ranged those persons who remain 
children all their lives, with nothing in their souls to check the impulses 
of instinct. Such persons, as St. Benedict insists, are little suited to 
comprehend the scope of a moral penalty like excommunication. 

So, when characters such as these commit faults, appeal must be made 
to their bodies, whether for repression or weakening. They may be 
weakened by severe fasting (by nimiis St. Benedict cannot mean excessive 
and indiscreet) ; their extravagances may be repressed by well-directed 
stripes. " In order that they may be cured " : for thus shall be established 
true moral health that is to say, the ordered and tranquil play of every 
energy, the balance and harmony of body and soul : Mens sana in corpore 


WE enter, with Chapter XXXI., upon that section of the Rule 
which is concerned with the working and material conditions 
of the monastery. The community has property, does 
work, and possesses tools for work; it must live and support 
itself. All this goes to make a considerable department, which is 
entrusted to the immediate or mediate care of him whom St. Benedict 
calls the " cellarer of the monastery," and whom other Rules call the 
provider, or the procurator, or, as Cassian does, the economus, who 
" presides over the deaconry." 1 In ancient writers the cellarius was a 
trusted servant who had charge of the cellar and the office, and dis 
tributed their victuals to the slaves. But, in St. Benedict s use, as for 
St. Pachomius and to some extent for all monks, the whole temporal 
administration devolved on the cellarer. We may easily measure the 
importance which St. Benedict attached to his office by the length of 
the chapter devoted to him, by the qualities which are required of him, 
and by the variety of the counsels that are given him. Among the 
sources of this chapter we may single out for special mention the twenty- 
fifth chapter of the Regula Orientalis. 2 

DE CELLERARIO MONASTERii. Cel- Let there be chosen out of the com- 

lerarius monasterii eligatur de congre- munity as Cellarer of the monastery, 

gatione sapiens, maturus moribus, so- a man wise and of mature character, 

brius, non multum edax, non elatus, temperate, not a great eater, not 

non turbulentus, non injuriosus, non haughty, nor headstrong, nor offensive, 

tardus, non prodigus, sed timens Deum, not dilatory, nor wasteful, but a God- 

qui omni congregation! sit sicut pater. fearing man, who may be like a father 

to the whole community. 

The cellarer shall be elected or chosen by the Abbot ; of that there 
can be no doubt, since St. Benedict entrusts to the Abbot the care of 
providing for the hierarchical organization of the monastery; but, in so 
important a matter, one which concerns the whole community, the 
Abbot shall take advice, if not of all the brethren, at least of the more 
prudent (Chapter LXV.). The cellarer shall be chosen from the bosom 
of the community: for it is obvious that to entrust the management 
of the possessions of the monastery to an outsider would be unkind to 
the community by ignoring them and would also be dangerous for the 
individual appointed. And should not a monastery be administered 
monastically ? A layman might be cleverer or more acquainted with 
business: but he might see just the business side and no other and fail 
to give things the importance which they have in reference to God. 
There is profitable business which we should despise, and unprofitable 

1 Conlat., XXL, i.; Inst., V., xl. 

2 Cf. S. BASIL., Reg. contr., cxi., cxii., cxiii. 

234 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

business which charity bids us undertake. Only sons of the house know 
what suits the dignity of the house; and only a brother can set the souls 
of his brethren before temporal advantage. Finally, manual labour, 
and the different offices connected with it, are too much part of the web 
of our lives to be dependent on a stranger. All this is plain ; but perhaps 
our Holy Father merely means that he should be chosen from among 
all the brethren who possesses the requisite assemblage of qualities. 

St. Benedict enumerates the cellarer s virtues with extreme care. 
Nor is it difficult to explain such requirements. Monastic life depends 
on peacefulness and security, the individual living without care for 
material things and having no relations with the outside world. There 
are, however, three or four monks whose life is sacrificed to the well- 
being of all, who are denied this prayerful serenity and this recollection, 
and who by their very office are endangered, so that the rest may be 
saved. Such are the infirmarian, the guestmaster, the cellarer, and the 
Abbot. The cellarer, says St. Benedict, should be a " wise " man that 
is, circumspect and prudent, able to consider many points at the same 
time, and in his decisions to give due weight to each: wisdom is eminent 
knowledge, able to judge and ordain by reason of its eminence. He 
must be " of mature character." His years, or in default of years his 
innate seriousness (" a spotless life is old age," Wisd. iv. 9), will guard him 
from interior and exterior dangers. He must be " temperate, 1 not a 
great eater "; 2 for, being in charge of the department of supplies and 
provisions, he must not be tempted to secure himself worldly comforts 
and privileges in food and drink that would soon degenerate into gluttony. 
Perhaps this counsel was especially opportune at a time when manners 
were barbarous and tended to excess; for nowadays we should be more 
inclined to advise the Abbot to choose a cellarer who both ate and 
drank. In fact it would be dangerous to entrust the victualling of the 
community either to an ascetic, a monk who lived very meagrely and 
always well within the average, or to a monk whose life was nothing but 
exceptions and who did not follow the general regime. The first 
cannot estimate correctly; his measure is too small: for we naturally 
take ourselves as the standard and are easily unmerciful with grievances 
which we ourselves do not feel. This state of things leads inevitably 
to murmuring, and would make many unable to face the essential work 
of their lives. On the other hand, we have a regime of exceptions, 
spreading from one to another through the whole monastery. 

Non elatus : he must not be proud. His office undoubtedly gives him 
an occasion for pride. The uniting of many functions in his hands, the 
dependence of all on him, the very custom which the Abbot wisely 
follows of keeping nothing in his own possession, but himself receiving 
what he needs from the cellarer: this subordination of all to him may 
insensibly become a temptation. Non turbulentus : he must not be 

1 Cf. CALMET., in h. I. 

2 Reg. I., SS. PATRUM, xii. : . . . Qui cellar iumfratrum contineat. Debet talis tan- 
tummodo eligi, qui fossil in omnibus gules sute suggesttonibus dominari. 

Of the Cellarer of the Monastery 235 

turbulent and a source of confusion; he should be of an equable and 
peaceful temper. Turbulence and caprice are everywhere and always 
objectionable: but they would be especially so in the case of one who 
has such serious responsibilities. Non injuriosus : he must not insult 
people, a thing to which impatience leads so quickly. The more various 
the interests he has to consider, the more resolute should be his calm 
serenity. We may add that this serenity implies constant union with 
God and cannot come merely from temperament. He especially should 
often repeat those words of the seventy-fifth psalm : " And his place 
is in peace and his abode in Sion." He must not be slow (non tardus) 
through avarice or meanness or natural carelessness; for the business 
entrusted to him generally demands promptitude. Non prodigus : 
he should not be wasteful, with a taste for extravagant expenditure. 
Nay, he shall be forgiven for being somewhat careful, a little close-fisted, 
so as to be a check on a hundred factitious requirements. In any case 
he must be exact, and get a clear idea of things, nor give the misguided 
man all he asks for a journey or purchase of any sort. The " fear of 
God " shall guide all his actions and inspire his decisions. And in 
temporal matters the cellarer must be " like a father to the whole 
community," not a mere business man, or harsh and heedless bailiff. 

Curam gerat de omnibus: sine Let him have the care of everything, 
jussione Abbatis nihil faciat. Quae but do nothing without leave of the 
jubentur, custodiat: fratres non con- Abbot. Let him take heed to what 
tristet. Si quis autem f rater ab eo is commanded him : let him not sadden 
forte aliquid irrationabiliter postulat, his brethren. If a brother ask him 
non spernendo eum contristet, sed for anything unreasonably, let him 
rationabiliter cum humilitate male not treat him with contempt and so 
petenti deneget. Animam suam cus- grieve him, but reasonably and with 
todiat, memor semper illius apostolici all humility refuse what he asks for 
praecepti, quia qui bene ministraverit, amiss. Let him be watchful over his 
gradum bonum sibi acquirit. own soul, remembering always that 

saying of the Apostle, that " he that 
hath ministered well purchaseth to 
himself a good degree." 

Up to this point our Holy Father has been giving a rapid summary of 
the qualities which should determine the choice of a cellarer. He now 
speaks of his duties in general, describing his relations with the Abbot, 
and with his brethren, and finally what he should be himself. " Let 
him have the care of everything." To separate the offices which supply 
the material wants of the community and set them in a mere relation 
of juxtaposition to one another would be to open the door to disorder, 
waste, jealousy, and negligence. Not that one man is to do everything; 
but things will not be done and done well except there be a single 
directive authority. This authority the cellarer should have. No 
thing should be withdrawn from his vigilant care. He shall be respon 
sible for all; yet, as St. Benedict adds, he shall do nothing without leave 
of the Abbot, and his activities are to be controlled by his instructions: 

236 Commentary on the "Rule of St. Benedict 

" let him take heed to what is commanded him." Of course in practical 
concerns and matters of finance the Abbot will always be very ready 
to adopt the opinion of his cellarer, since more than any other he is 
conversant with such and is competent to deal with them. But, when 
all is said, the Abbot remains responsible and from him must come the 
decision. So after putting these various offices into the hands of the 
cellarer, St. Benedict would have these offices and their controller, 
the cellarer, remain unquestionably in the hands of the Abbot. 

He is not to sadden the brethren. 1 Here we have the most thorny 
problem of his administration. If every request were reasonable and 
discreet, and the function of the cellarer a mere giving of consent, there 
would be no need to bother about finding a prudent and judicious 
man for the post. But the cellarer must be able to say no, when a 
request is unjustified or unreasonable. Undoubtedly the cellarer s 
duty is simplified by the fact that he gives nothing save by express or 
tacit permission of the Abbot; but there still remains scope, in the 
ordinary duties of his office, for the exercise of this wise counsel of our 
Holy Father. He may be asked for what is unreasonable. Let him 
learn to refuse it reasonably that is, explaining the refusal, simply, 
humbly, sweetly, without insult or taunt; so that the brother who 
prefers the unreasonable request may not be able to charge him with 
impatience or prejudice, whether in the substance or the manner of 
his refusal. There is a manner of giving which enhances the gift ; so, 
too, there is a manner of refusing which softens the refusal: spiritual 
tact will find this manner. 2 St. Benedict s aim is to banish murmuring, 
to secure gentleness with souls, and to spare the Abbot those trouble 
some appeals which the aggrieved monk naturally brings to his tribunal. 
The cellarer must be amiable. He has not to be a sort of hedgehog in 
the community, getting into an attitude of defence whenever anyone 
approaches him, because he guesses what the matter is. If people 
are compelled to take their courage in both hands when they have any 
request to make of him, and if they only make up their minds to face 
him in the last extremity, then monastic poverty is in great danger; 
for, to avoid these painful interviews, the brethren will be strongly 
tempted to provide themselves with what is necessary, and presently 
with what is superfluous. 

Animam suam custodiat. In these words we have the duty of the 
cellarer as regards himself. He must guard his soul against the dissi 
pation inevitably induced by the care of material things and somewhat 
frequent relations with the world. He should be a more interior man 
and a better monk than his brethren. The more he is drawn out to the 
external by the nature of his occupations, the more should he turn in 

1 Ne contristes fratrem iuum, quia monacbus es (Verba Seniorum: Vila Palrum^ III., 
170. ROSWEYD, p. 526). 

a Supplicem nullum spernas, et cut dare non poles quod pctierit, non eum spernas; si poles 
dare, da; si non potes, affabilem le prasta (S. AUG., Enarr. I. in Psal. ciii. 19. P.L., 
XXXVIL, 1351). 

Of the Cellarer of the Monastery 237 

to his centre and to God, and so escape dissipation and aridity. Such 
is the meaning generally given to St. Benedict s words, and the interpre 
tation is accurate. Yet we may bring out the meaning more fully, if we 
consider the motive which goes with the counsel viz., that the cellarer 
should remember the reward that is promised him. The words " let 
him be watchful over his own soul !" recall the Gospel sentence: " In 
your patience you shall possess your souls " (Luke xxi. 19) ; for to watch 
over and to possess the soul mean the same. Perhaps dissipation is not 
the only danger to which a cellarer is exposed; he may let his soul escape 
his grasp by impatience or ennui. Great is his temptation, every day 
and every moment and lasting for years; for the capable cellarer is a 
precious pearl and is jealously kept. His life does not belong to himself; 
unwittingly a conspiracy of all is formed against his peace; he is most 
exposed to the petty importunities and annoyances of the brethren. 
And if he has a taste for the things of the mind and for piety, how heroic 
is that abnegation which purchases the peace and security of all ! Yet 
the cellarer should not dwell upon his toil and sacrifice and servitude, 
but remember only what the Apostle said of deacons who fulfilled their 
duties diligently: "They that have ministered well shall purchase to 
themselves a good degree and much confidence in the faith which is in 
Christ Jesus " (i Tim. iii. I3.) 1 For God is just and without doubt will 
give a large share of the merits of the community to those whose devot- 
edness permits the community to serve Him in peace. The " good 
degree " here promised is not promotion in the worldly sense: it is a 
better position henceforth and for ever in nearness to God. 

Infirmorum, infantium, hospitum, Let him have especial care of the 
pauperumque cum omni sollicitudine sick, of the children, of guests, and of 
curam gerat, sciens sine dubio, quia pro the poor, knowing without doubt that 
his omnibus in die judicii rationem he will have to render an account of all 
redditurus est. Omnia vasa monasterii these on the Day of Judgement. Let 
cunctamque substantiam, ac si altaris him look upon all the vessels and goods 
vasa sacrata conspiciat. Nihii ducat of the Monastery as though they were 
negligendum: neque avaritiae studeat, the consecrated vessels of the altar, 
neque prodigus sit, aut extirpator Let him not think that he may neglect 
substantial monasterii ; sed omnia men- anything: let him not be given to 
surate faciat, et secundum jussionem covetousness, nor wasteful, nor a 
Abbatis sui. squanderer of the goods of the monas 

tery; but do all things in proper 
measure, and according to the bidding 
of his Abbot. 

The Rule, considering more in detail the duties of^ the cellarer, 
specifies the privileged objects of his care and determines the true 
character of his administration. The sick and children of the monastery, 
guests, and the poor that present themselves: all these have an especial 
title to the good offices and the generosity of the cellarer. The Abbot 

1 The First Rule of the HOLY FATHERS also said : Studere debetqui buic officio deputatur, 
ut audiat: Quia qui bene ministraverit, bonum gradum acquirit; et ammte su<e lucrum 
Jacit (xii.). 

238 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

and community count upon him to exercise those works of mercy which 
are expected from a monastery. And, in order to awaken his zeal, 
St. Benedict treats him as he did the Abbot, appealing to his conscience 
and reminding him that without doubt he will have to render an account 
of all his deeds on the Day of Judgement. 

All the tools and vessels of the monastery, all its goods, whether real 
or personal, must be regarded by him and treated as though they were 
the consecrated vessels of the altar. This is a strong statement and 
would even seem exaggerated; yet it is common to the ancient monastic 
Rules. To the question: " How should workers care for the tools or 
implements of their work ?" St. Basil answers : " First they should treat 
them as though they were the vessels of God, even as those already con 
secrated to His service. Then as not being able without them to profit 
by their devotedness and zeal. ... If a man misuse them, he is to be 
adjudged guilty of sacrilege; if a man destroy them by his negligence, 
he incurs the same charge; for all things which are appointed for the 
use of the servants of God are without doubt consecrated to God." 
The same teaching is to be found in the first Rule of the Holy Fathers 
and in Cassian. 1 Despite the legal arrangements which communities 
are forced to adopt in order to resist the encroachments of an infidel 
State, the only true proprietor of monastic property is God, neither one 
nor many religious nor the corporate community itself. Both persons 
and property belong to God. What consecration does for the vessels 
of the altar is done for monks by their profession, for their property 
by its devotion to God s service. Perhaps it is this quality of monastic 
property, more than its actual value, which commends it to the rapacity 
of God s enemies. But our use of God s resources, which as our Father 
He gives for our enjoyment and entrusts to our administration, must 
be guided by the inspiration of faith. Neither Abbot nor cellarer may 
make away with or squander these resources without dishonouring God 
and frustrating His designs; their consciences will even forbid them to 
surrender part to iniquitous exaction, with the purpose in itself very 
human of possessing the rest in peace. The property may be taken 
from them ; but they may not give it away or divert it from its true end. 
Nihil ducat negligendum. . . . Since all the possessions of the 
monastery, movable or not, are the property of God, the cellarer may 
treat none with negligence. No sort of economy, as we are told, should 
be despised ; but here it is a question not of economy, but rather 
of respect and supernatural fidelity. Negligence in such circumstances 
may easily acquire the malice of sacrilege. Neque avaritiez studeat: 
by which remark St. Benedict would anticipate and prevent the mistake 
of a cellarer who should interpret the previous counsel to suit his own 
wishes. For the desire to amass and to keep, which is impossible of 
realization by the other religious, may be realized by him. The habit 
of handling money, the need of skilful management and carefulness, 
combined, it may be, with a natural leaning towards excessive economy : 
1 S. BASIL., Reg. contr.^ ciii., civ. Reg< I. SS. PATRUM, xii. CASS., Inst. 9 IV., xix., xx. 

Of the Cellarer of the Monastery 239 

all these, assisted by age, may make a man who has renounced personal 
ownership, the very type of a proprietor, in the pretended interest of the 
community. What ingenious reasons self-interest can find to satisfy 
its desires and bring about ownership under the very shelter of the vow 
of poverty ! So he accumulates, and defends against all approach and 
against all usewithwhich he does not agree, possessions of which he is only 
the temporary administrator; he creates an unlimited reserve, though 
the property, like the persons of a monastery, once they pass a certain 
point, should fructify for God that is, serve for the foundation of new 
centres of teaching and prayer. 

There is another danger: prodigality, the squandering of the re 
sources of the monastery. To see a religious house go bankrupt is not 
an edifying spectacle; nor should it groan under a burden of debt. As 
we have already remarked, religious poverty requires a margin of sub 
sistence. A monk should never be forced by the notorious distress of 
his house to provide for himself, to go begging from all sides, to impor 
tune parents and benefactors. The worst may be feared if the cellarer 
is a " hustler," enamoured of imposing purchases, which are no sooner 
made than they are found useless and sold at a loss; if he is partial to 
mining shares and remote speculations; if he has an incorrigible love for 
bricks and mortar. Rather than abandon himself to covetousness or 
prodigality, let him listen to our Holy Father s appeal and do all things 
in proper measure, keeping the mean between both extremes. If he 
would not give way to inclination or temperament, let him keep the 
Abbot informed of his administration, and follow in all things the orders 
and views of his superior, who must not stand aside. 

Humilitatem ante omnia habeat, Let him above all things have 
et cui substantia non est quae tribuatur, humility; and to him on whom he has 
sermo responsionis porrigatur bonus, nothing else to bestow, let him give 
quia scrip turn est: Sermo bonus super at least a kind answer, as it is written: 
datum optimum. " A good word is above the best gift." 

St. Benedict has treated of the qualities and duties of the cellarer 
in a general and theoretical fashion; he now considers him in the actual 
and concrete exercise of his office, so as to emphasize anew the attitude 
which is expected from him towards the Abbot and towards his brethren. 
" Let him above all things have humility." To meet the special diffi 
culties of his charge the cellarer should, as we have said, be a better 
monk than all; therefore should he possess, more deeply and strongly 
entrenched in his soul, that virtue which makes the monk, humility. 
Humility has been defined as " submission to God and to every creature 
for love of God "; to which we would fain add " peaceful and constant 
union with God." By the assiduous practice of this union the cellarer 
will spare himself a thousand blunders and his neighbour many a petty 
annoyance. Let us admire once more St. Benedict s spiritual skill. 
Instead of describing minutely the methods and particular means which 
the cellarer must use, instead of furnishing him with a ready-made mind, 
he educates him from within and gives him a soul. 

240 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

The humility of the cellarer will show itself especially, says the Rule, 
in his manner of refusing monks what he cannot or ought not to give 
them. He should remember that he is their brother and their equal, 
their servant rather than their master, and that the favours which he 
grants or withholds are not his nor personal to him. A rough or con 
temptuous refusal is cruel. And, if you must disappoint, you need not 
do it tauntingly. How excellent is kindness, and how little it costs ! 
Just a word of regret, some small compensation, a promise, an affable 
air, a friendly smile. If the money or object which is asked for cannot 
be given, then "let him give at least a kind answer": which words are 
almost those of Ecclesiasticus (xviii. 16-17): "A good word is above 
the best gift." 

Omnia quse ei injunxerit Abbas, Let him have under his care all 
ipse habeat sub cura sua; a quibus eum that the Abbot may enjoin him, and 
prohibuerit, non prassumat. presume not to meddle with what is 

forbidden him. 

A third time St. Benedict reminds the cellarer that he should con 
form in all things to the orders and directions of his Abbot; a thing 
required by humility and obedience. Office is made easy when one is 
determined to be absolutely docile. Perhaps this third instruction has 
a new meaning. As we said a moment ago, it is very important that the 
whole material administration of the monastery should be unified. 
But one man cannot manage the manifold interests of a great monastery, 
nor need he necessarily possess all-round aptitude. So the Abbot may 
relieve a cellarer of the immediate care of several matters. Some cel 
larers will want to keep everything in their own hands, while others 
will disburden themselves according to their own good pleasure; either 
attitude is harmful and dangerous. The difficulty is met and solved 
by the Abbot s authority: he must himself choose the different officials 
and define exactly the scope and limits of their offices. So let the 
cellarer look to all that the Abbot may enjoin him, but let him not 
meddle with matters in which he has been requested not to interfere. 
To appeal to monastic custom, to vindicate haughtily the supposed 
rights of his office, and to search the chronicles of the Order for proof 
of his case such procedure would be childish. 

Fratribus constitutam annonam Let him distribute to the brethren 
sine aliquo typo vel mora offerat, ut their appointed allowance of food, 
non scandalizentur, memor divini without arrogance or delay, that they 
eloquii, quid mereatur qui scandaliza- be not scandalized: mindful of what 
verit unum de pusillis. the Word of God declares him to 

deserve, who " shall scandalize one of 

these little ones." 

It is to the cellarer, as we shall see in the succeeding chapters, that 
St. Benedict entrusts the care and distribution of food. The Rule 
determines what should be given to the monks at each meal ; it provides 
for certain cases when the Abbot may somewhat increase and alter the 

Of the Cellarer of the Monastery 241 

allowance of food and drink. By constitutam annonam St. Benedict 
means this fixed portion, the regular allowance given to those serving 
under the standard of God. Perhaps, by an extreme care for the 
finances of the monastery or from fear of scarcity to come, the cellarer 
might sometimes be tempted to reduce the portion fixed by the Abbot, 
or at least to grant it with regret, with a sort of jealousy and a disagreeable 
reluctance. The Life of St. Benedict gives a sketch of one of these 
too conscientious cellarers. 1 A cellarer might even go so far as to 
season with ungracious comment the portion that he has been compelled 
to give. Our Holy Father warns him against a temper which would 
wound charity and obedience and true monastic poverty: sine aliquo 
typo vel mora offerat. 2 Refusals, grumbling, and niggardliness would 
cause trouble in the community. For men are not angels, and they must 
eat; neither are all men perfect, and, when they have just cause to com 
plain, they do complain. Our Holy Father sets such value on peace 
and charity in the community that his language becomes severe and he 
recalls the Gospel menaces against those who sow discord and give 
scandal, be it only to one of the little children of God (Matt, xviii. 6). 

Si congregatio major fuerit, solatia If the community be large, let 

ei dentur, a quibus adjutus, et ipse helpers be given to him, by whose aid 

aequo animo impleat officium sibi com- he may with peace of mind discharge 

missum. Horis competentibus dentur the office committed to him. Let 

quae danda sunt, et petantur quae such things as are necessary be given 

petenda sunt: ut nemo perturbetur, and asked for at befitting times, that 

neque contristetur in domo Dei. no one may be troubled or grieved in 

the house of God. 

The intention of these last words is to secure the cellarer himself 
some peace and leisure. In the first place, if the community is large, 
the Abbot shall give him assistants, so that he may be able to discharge 
the office committed to him with an equable and tranquil soul. But it 
will relieve him more than all else if the brethren are considerate and 
take care to make their requests to him only at the proper times; while 
on his part he should give what he has to give in due time and at fixed 
hours. The brethren should know how to wait for a suitable oppor 
tunity, and should ask themselves, when they go to the cellarer, whether 
he is not occupied by business of greater moment. That man has neither 
good manners nor charity who jumps up as soon as he feels a need and 
runs off to the cellarer, at any hour of the day and of silence time, 
immediately the notion enters his head. We may remark that the 

1 S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. xxviii., xxix. 

2 The scribes sometimes wrote typo, sometimes typho: the latter reading is the t 
The word is Latinized Greek: rO$o$-, smoke, smoke of pride or arrogance; in Hippocrates 
it means torpor, stupor, lethargy. If St. Benedict had this latter sense m mind, typus 
and mora would be very nearly synonymous; what he wanted to say was: without 
arrogance, cum bumilitate, as before and for a third time. St. Benedict s words recall 
ST. AUGUSTINE: oblationes pro spiritibus dormientium . . . super ipsas memonas non sint 
sumptuosa, atque omnibus petentibus sine typbo et cum alacritate prabeantur (Epist. XXI 1., 
6. P.L., XXXIIL, 9 z). 


242 Commentary on the "Rule of St. Benedict 

recollected and studious wait most willingly and are most economical 
of the time of others. 

We might give to St. Benedict s words a general application. There 
is practically but one man in the monastery to whom this rule does not 
apply that is, the Abbot. He is yours wholly. You may be passing 
his room and you go in, with nothing to say or ask for, but simply be 
cause your heart is so inclined. You receive his blessing and you are 
dismissed, if he is very busy, or else you chat for a moment. It is the 
Abbot s privilege to be accessible at every hour, and that is the advantage 
of his office; good monks will take care that they do not deprive him of 
it. Having made this observation let us hold fast to St. Benedict s 
principle: that no one should be troubled or grieved in the house of 
God. We were created and put in the world to be happy. Superiors 
have no mission to try the patience of their monks by deliberate rebuffs, 
nor have monks to burden beyond measure the shoulders of those who 
carry them. The monastery is the " house of God," and therefore 
the house of peace and the threshold of eternity: Urbs Jerusalem beata, 
dicta pads visio. 




TERII. Substantive monasterii in ferra- 
mentis, vel vestibus, seu quibuslibet 
rebus, provideat Abbas fratres, de 
quorum vita et moribus securus sit: et 
iis singula, ut utile judicaverit, con- 
signet custodienda atque recolligenda. 
Ex quibus Abbas breve teneat: ut dum 
sibi in ipsa assignata fratres vicissim 
succedunt, sciat quid dat aut quid 
recipit. Si quis autem sordide aut 
negligenter res monasterii tractaverit, 
corripiatur; si non emendaverit, dis- 
ciplinae regulari subjaceat. 

Let the Abbot appoint brethren, 
on whose manner of life and character 
he can rely, to the charge of the tools, 
clothes, and other property of the 
monastery; and let him consign the 
various things to their charge, as he 
shall think fit, to be kept and to be 
collected after use. Of these let the 
Abbot keep a list, so that as the 
brethren succeed to different employ 
ments, he may know what he gives 
and what he receives back. If anyone 
treat the property of the monastery 
in a slovenly or negligent manner, let 
him be corrected; and if he do not 
amend, let him be subjected to the 
discipline of the Rule. 

THE connection of this chapter with the preceding one is obvious. 
Both treat of the property of the monastery, and the thirty- 
second mentions some of those assistants that the cellarer was 
promised in the thirty-first. 

The Abbot has to entrust to brethren whose good life and steady 
character he knows, and in whom he can repose all confidence, whatever 
tools, clothes, or other movable property the monastery may possess. 
He must assign to each, according as he thinks fit, a special depart 
ment, with the duty of guarding and preserving the implements 
pertaining to his department. To prevent their being lost, they will 
see to their return, after use, to the regular place ; consignet custodienda 
atque recolligenda. So the cellarer does not himself choose his assist 
ants, but is given them by the Abbot. One will have charge of tools, 
another of clothes, another of the library, and so on. The immediate 
control of the commissariat and the kitchen remains in the hands of the 

There is nothing to prove that in St. Benedict s time tools were 
given out for a week only, and that all the offices here mentioned 
changed their holders periodically, as in the service of the kitchen, and 
in conformity with the ordinance of St. Pachomius: "When the 
week is finished all tools shall be brought back to one house; and let 
those who follow every week know what to give out to the various 
houses." 1 St. Benedict foresees, however, that the brethren will follow 
one another in the custody of the things entrusted to them; and, 
since they might be tempted to accuse one another of negligence, he 

1 ST. PACK., Rule. Ixvi.; cf. xxv., xxvi., xxvii. 

244 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

makes a point of fixing responsibility. So the Abbot, never abdicating 
his position, must keep by him an account and inventory (breve) of all 
things given out ; in order that he may know exactly what he gives and 
what is given back to him. This is that excellent precaution of accurate 
book-keeping. Calmet appositely notices the analogies between our 
Holy Father s arrangements and those of the Latin agricultural writers, 
Columella and Varro. 

In the third and final sentence of this chapter our Holy Father 
declares that punishment will be inflicted on those who treat the pro 
perty of the monastery in a slovenly or careless manner viz., a repri 
mand, and if that be unsuccessful, the application of the various penalties 
comprised in the discipline of the Rule. " If any of the brethren shall 
treat anything negligently," says the first Rule of the Holy Fathers, 
" let him know that his part is with that king who drank in the sacred 
vessels of God s House with his concubines, and let him remember 
the punishment he earned." 1 In the world a man is impelled to care for 
himself and his possessions, to be thrifty and businesslike, by different 
motives : by consideration for his well-being and the well-being and social 
standing of his family, and by the sentiment of personal ownership. 
Children are rarely careful, because they have little foresight ; communists 
and socialists, who give all ownership to collective bodies or to the State, 
will with difficulty solve the problem of work and economy. The monas 
tic life alone has found the means, while suppressing personal ownership, 
of furnishing work, economy, and carefulness, not with any ordinary 
motive or stimulus, but with the most powerful of all : the conviction, 
that is, that we work for God and that our respect is paid to His property. 
Yet it is imperative that these considerations should not remain in the 
region of abstract theory, but be practically realized by the individual 
in his conduct. This done, it is not external order only and health 
that benefit by scrupulous care of clothes, person, cell, books, tools, and 
all else, but our souls also, our delicacy of conscience, our spiritual 
family, and even God Himself. 

1 C. xxii. And ST. CJESARIUS: Quee cellario sive canava, sive vestibus, vel codicibus, 
aut posticio, vel lanipendio praponuntur, super Evangelium claves accipiant, tt sine 
murmuratione serviant reliquis. Si qua vero vesttmenta, calceamenta, utensilia negligenter 
expendenda vel custodienda putarint, tanquam interversores rerum monasterialium severius 
corrigantur (Reg. ad virg., xxx.). 



Si QUID DEBEANT MONACHi PRO- Above all let the vice of private 

PRIUM HABERE. Prsecipue hoc vitium ownership be cut off from the monas- 

radicitus amputetur de monasterio, ne tery by the roots. Let none presume 

quis praesumat aliquid dare aut accipere to give or receive anything without 

sine jussione Abbatis, neque aliquid leave of the Abbot, or to keep any- 

habere proprium, nullam omnino rem, thing as their own, either book or 

neque codicem, neque tabulas, neque writing-tablet or pen, or anything 

graphium, sed nihil omnino: quippe whatsoever; since they are permitted 

quibus nee corpora sua, nee voluntates to have neither body nor will in their 

licet habere in propria poteitate. own power. 

AGAIN it is in reference to the cellarer and his office that our Holy 
l\ Father describes for us the position of monks with regard to 
AA temporal goods, and tells us under what conditions and in what 
* -*- measure they may use them. Before St. Benedict s time, as 
after it, poverty was always one of the three essential obligations of the 
religious life; and if our Holy Father does not require his disciples to 
take an explicit vow of chastity or poverty, the reason is that they are 
included in the promise to observe monastic customs and the monastic 
mode of life : that is in the vow of conversio morum. That the monk is 
poor by the very fact of his state of life was a principle universally 
accepted; and so St. Benedict is able to embark without any preface, and 
so to say ex abrupto, on his provisions for the exclusion of all personal 

" Above all let this vice of private ownership be cut off from the 
monastery by the roots"; 2 farther on he calls it "this most baneful 
vice." Such words as these, for all their appearance of extreme and 
rather excessive vigour, are yet not more than prudent. For in this 
matter nothing is trivial. Doubtless poverty belongs to the more 
external side of our religious promises; for while I give God my will by 
obedience and my body by chastity, it would seem that by poverty I 
only give external goods and the rights attaching to them. But for 
the very reason that poverty is more external it is more open to menace, 
just as the most advanced works of a fortress are those first attacked by 
the enemy. So long as these works remain intact and stoutly defended, 
the fortress has nothing to fear; but if they be taken the most central 
parts are no longer secure, and it often happens that those works are 
turned against a position, which were laboriously constructed for its 
defence. Experience teaches that religious apostasy nearly always 
begins with some breach of poverty. Infidelities multiply and con- 

1 This is ST. BASIL S title, or rather his question: S* debet babere aliquid proprium y 
qui inter fratres est f (Reg. contr., xxix.). 

2 Both thought and phrase come from CASSIAN, Conlat., XVI., vi. 


246 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

science slumbers. A man speaks thus to himself: "The thing is so 
trivial; I should certainly get permission if I asked. And I cannot be 
bothering the Abbot with these petty details. Perhaps he would not 
understand how useful these things are to me, how necessary for my 
health and my studies. This has been of great service to me before now ; 
it is so convenient and I am used to it. I have a prescriptive right to it." 
When personal ownership is re-established, under whatever form, we 
are no longer in God s house, but in our own, among our goods and 
chattels or in "furnished apartments"; for our relation to God is 
instantly changed. Again there is meum and tuum; self-interest re 
appears and with it jealousy and conflict; for our relations to our neigh 
bours are also instantly changed. We return to the conditions of 
ordinary worldly life, but with a mean and base addition, the disgrace 
of a broken vow. 

After having proscribed the vice of ownership in general, St. Benedict 
enumerates the different acts of ownership which are forbidden to monks 
viz., giving, receiving, and keeping. 1 The qualification: "without 
leave of the Abbot " will be explained later. So as to preclude all the 
petty devices of self-interest and to keep off all too liberal interpretations 
of the law, our Holy Father declares in forcible terms that a monk may 
own nothing whatsoever (nullam omnino rent) not even trivial things, 
not even articles of prime necessity to students, such as books, writing- 
tablets, pens. All these things are given us only ad usum, not for a use 
which is of right and perpetual, but for a use of fact, revocable at pleasure 
by the superior. And St. Benedict repeats the point in the words: 
sed nihil omnino. We shall find the same rigorous ordinance in the 
fifty-eighth chapter, and the sentence which follows occurs there too, 
though in a less complete form. From the moment of their profession 
monks may possess nothing, " since they are no longer permitted to have 
either body or will in their own power." 2 What is our Holy Father s 
exact meaning ? Would he suggest that, since the monk has given his 
person to religion, it should be much easier for him to consent to the 
abandonment of his property, which is external to himself and of less 
value ? Or would he merely mark the fact that the monk s dispoliation 
must be quite radical, " since neither body nor will is any longer in his 
own power." It seems to us that the words of St. Benedict have here 

1 As sources of this chapter we may indicate once for all the following: S. PACK., 
Reg., Ixxxi., cvi. S. ORSIESII Doctrina, xxi.-xxiii. Reg. II. SS. PATRUM., i. Reg. 
Orient., xxx.-xxxi. S. BASIL., Reg. contr., xxix.-xxxi., xcviii.-xcix. S. AUG., Epist. 
CCXI., 5 (P.L., XXXIII., 960). SULP. SEV., Vita B. Martini, x. (P.L., XX., 166). 
S. C/ESAR., Reg. ad mon., i.-iii., xv., xvi. ; Reg. ad virg., passim. CASS., Inst., IV., xiii. 

a Qui seipsum et membra sua tradidit in alterius potestatem propter mandatum Domini 
(S. BASIL., Reg. contr., cvi.). Ne sui quidem ipsius esse se dominum vel potestatem habere 
cognoscat (CASS., Inst., II., Hi.). See also S. MACAR., Reg., xxiv. We read in the Con- 
stitutiones monast., c. xx. (inter opp. S. BASILII. P.G., XXXI., 1393): Tu autem mortuus es, 
et toti mundo crucifixus. Rejectis enim terrenis divitiis amplexus es paupertatem; et cum 
te ipse dicastiDeo, Dei factus es thesaurus . . . Nibil omnino possidens, nihil babes quod 
largiaris. Into etiam cum ipsum corpus obtuleris et de ceetero ne illius quidem potestatem 
habeas, tanquam quod res sit Deo consecrata, tibi eo uti non licet ad humanum usum. 

Ought Monks to have anything of their Own ? 247 

a juridical force, a formal practical reference. Goods, which of them 
selves belong to no one, do not become ours save by means of two acts : 
the first an act of our positive will, for no one can be an owner in his 
own despite, and even for an inheritance acceptance is necessary; the 
other an act of our body, which occupies the object and awards it, 
whether by its labour or by some external form, to the person. If one 
or other of these elements be wanting, and a fortiori if there be neither 
internal act of will nor external occupation, ownership does not exist. 
Now this, to St. Benedict s mind, is precisely the case of the monk: he is 
incapable of possessing, since his body and will, the necessary instruments 
of personal appropriation, belong to him no more. 

Does this mean that profession makes the religious radically incapable 
of the act of acquisition or of exercising any sort of ownership ? To 
appreciate the point perfectly we should remember that according to 
the actual legislation of the Church vows are of two kinds, simple and 
solemn. The simple vow of poverty leaves the religious the bare owner 
ship of his property, but does not permit him its administration or use 
save under the control of his superior; for the monk s will must be made 
competent by the will of his Abbot. The case is different with the 
solemn vow. To be quite precise the solemnity of the vow consists 
in the intervention of the Sovereign Pontiff; for the vow is regarded as 
uttered in his presence and accepted by him. Henceforth he alone may 
dispense, since it is the common character of every case that is taken to 
Rome and in which Rome intervenes, though it be incidentally only, to 
be withdrawn ipso facto from any inferior jurisdiction. The solemnly pro 
fessed monk loses both the bare ownership and the administration of his 
property; yet he may be empowered by the Holy See to perform certain 
acts of ownership, notwithstanding his vow and without breaking it, 
as is proved by certain papal decisions of the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries. In certain cases the Church has authorized religious to attest 
the reality of their ownership under oath before the civil courts. But, 
for all that, they do not cease to be poor, since even then they are owners 
only within the limits set by obedience and by the will of the Holy See. 
So we cannot say unreservedly that solemn profession entails an absolute 
and final incapacity to possess. 

Moreover, even without taking into consideration extraordinary 
cases and dispensations, it is correct and wise to hold that, in a general 
way, the monk in solemn vows always remains capable of real acquisition, 
that the animus domini can really exist in him. The terse axiom of 
canon law which decides the point says so twice in the words: Quod 
monachus acquirit monasterio acquirit. A monk acquires property, and 
acquires it for his monastery; whether it be by labour, gift, bequest, or 
inheritance. He is incapable of acquiring for himself in proprietatt, 
with rights of ownership; but acquires for the monastery to which he 
belongs. His union with the monastery and incorporation in it are so 
complete that, except he has settled in due time (before his vows) what 
shall become of anything that comes to him later, the monastery inherits 

248 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

at once all the property that falls to a monk. We should not regard the 
system of " la mort civile " (civil death) which was introduced in 
France during the fifteenth century as an ideal state of things for 
monasticism. By this system religious were, so to say, struck out of the 
list of the living, both in their active and passive relations, so that any 
legacy, instead of going to them and their monastery, passed by law to 
their heirs. This was an injustice, a perverse precaution against the 
excessive extension of mortmain, a socialistic ordinance suppressing 
ownership by State authority, a prelude to the spoliations of the eigh 
teenth century. Some have found the theory of " civil death " in the 
laws of Justinian ; but a close perusal shows, on the contrary, that these 
laws sanctioned the bestowal of a monk s property on the monastery 
and even authorized a bequest to be made in favour of the monastery 
in certain cases. St. Gregory the Great 1 cites these laws and bases his 
action on their decision, so far as they were Christian and equitable; 
but there is nothing to prove that he wished to give them ecclesiastical 

Omnia vero necessaria a patre But let them hope to receive all 

monasterii sperare; nee quicquam liceat that is necessary from the father of the 

habere, quod Abbas non dederit aut monastery; nor let them be allowed to 

permiserit. Omniaque omnibus sint keep anything which the Abbot has 

communia, ut scriptum est, nee quis- not given or permitted. Let all things 

quam suum esse aliquid dicat aut praesu- be common to all, as it is written, nor 

mat. let anyone say or assume that aught 

is his own. 

So far St. Benedict has given only negative precepts; now he tells 
us how the monks are provided with the things indispensable for their 
life and state. They must expect to receive them from the father of 
the monastery, and they must not keep anything whatever that the Abbot 
has not given or permitted. We should take careful note that herein 
consists the true essence of our poverty. For there are different types 
of poverty. There is the poverty of St. Cajetan and apostolic men; 
there is poverty relieved by manual labour; there is poverty relieved 
by begging; there is poverty with community of goods; there is the 
poverty of the Capuchins and Friars Minor of the observance, who may 
possess neither real nor personal property. And all are good; all have 
their origin in facts of history which gave each its special character. 
St. Benedict s conception is as follows. We are children of a family, 
forming the family of God and remaining minors till eternity. We 
live in our Father s house, the house of God. All the possessions of the 
monastery are His and He dispenses to us what we need by the hands 
of the Abbot, His representative. We are poor, not when we are in 
want of all things and suffer from scarcity, 2 but when we have nothing 

1 Epist., 1. IV., Ep. VI.; 1. IX., Ep. VII., Ep. CXIV. P.L., LXXVIL, 672-673, 
945-947, 1044-1045. See the edition of EWOLD and HARTMAN, M.G.H.: Epist., t. I., 
pp. 237-238; t. II., pp. 185-186, 215-216. 

2 Nor was this the ideal of ST. GREGORY THE GREAT, who wrote: Religiosam vitam 
eligentibus congrua nos oportet consideration prospicere, ne cujusdam necessitates occasio aut 

Ought Monks to have anything of their Own? 249 

in our possession save what the Abbot has given us or permitted us to 
keep. The Abbot is responsible to God both for what he refuses and 
for what he gives ; yet each individual should help him to fulfil his role 
of guardian of poverty by reducing his requirements. 1 It appears to 
us that a man has the Benedictine spirit when he takes naturally to these 
elementary principles. 

Not even when certain possessions are left to the disposal of a monk 
is there ownership; no one should make anything his own, whatever it 
be, either in thought or word. This is the monastic tradition. 2 All is 
common, and the same property is for the use of all. This is a holy, 
well-regulated communism, and not anarchy. It is a return, prudently 
and with limitations, to the conditions of the Church of Jerusalem 
(Acts iv. 32). God alone possesses, and we rely upon Him, thus realizing 
the ideal traced in the Sermon on the Mount. We retain no single 
care, our liberty is complete. Nothing embarrasses or occupies our 
activity, in the way that possession of any sort generally does; for every 
proprietor is the slave of his property, often belonging only half or even 
less to the things of God. That is why the religious soul should be 
free of it all, free from all material possessions, from all immoderate 
desires, from all deliberate attachment to any good which is not God. 
Riches, in themselves, are neither good nor bad; nor is poverty itself 
good, save when it permits us to enjoy the Sovereign Good in all com 
pleteness. Is not, therefore, that form of poverty the best which most 
effectively conduces to this leisure of soul and union with God? 3 
Poverty, as St. Benedict understands it, secures us our subsistence and 
banishes all care, secures us a position of legitimate and necessary 
independence, secures us liberty to go to God, secures our obedience and 
submission to the Abbot, secures our fraternal charity, since there is 
no longer " mine and thine," secures our charity towards God, and our 

Quod si quisquam hoc nequissimo But if anyone shall be found to 

vitio deprehensus fuerit delectari, ad- indulge in this most baneful vice, and 
moneatur semel et iterum: si non after one or two admonitions do not 
emendaverit, correction! subjaceat. amend, let him be subjected to 


desides facial aut robur, quod absit, conversations infringat (Epist., 1. III., Ep. XVII., 
P.L., LXXVII., 617; M.G.H.: Epist., t. I., p. 175). And again: Officio pietatis im- 
pellimur monasteries provida consider atione f err e consultum, ne hi qui Dei servitio deputati 
esse noscuntur necessitatem aliquant possint, quod avertat Dominus, sustinere (Epist., 1. II., 
Ep. IV. P.L., LXXVII., 541; M.G.H.: Epist., 1. 1., p. 109). 

1 We should congratulate ourselves on the fact that our Constitutions absolutely 
toTbidpeculiumi.e., any money deposit, testamentary reservation, or income left to the 
free disposal of the monk. Even when authorized by Rule, this custom is hardly in 
accordance with the spirit of true monastic poverty. The Abbot himself, by our 
Constitutions, is subject to the requirements of the perfect common life. 

2 Hanc regulam videamus districtissime nunc usque servari, ut ne verbo quidem aude> 
quis dicer e aliquid suum magnumque sit crimen ex ore monachi processisse codtcem meum, 
tabulas meas, grafium meum, tunicam meant, gallicas meas, proque hoc digna p<emtentia 
satisfacturus sit, si casu aliquo per subreptionem vel ignorantiam bujusmodt verbum 

ejus effugerit (Cass., Inst., IV., xiii.). 

3 Read ST. THOMAS, Summa contra Gent., 1. III., c. cxxx.-cxxxv. 

250 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Our Holy Father threatens with chastisement all who should be 
convicted of any yielding to this detestable vice of ownership. Such 
a monk is to be warned a first and second time; if he does not mend his 
ways he is to be subjected to the grades of regular correction. Monastic 
antiquity ever showed itself very severe on this point. We may recall 
the story of the napkins told in the Life of St. Benedict. 1 St. Gregory 
the Great also tells of one of his monks who had secreted three gold coins. 
He did not allow the brethren to assist him on his deathbed and gave 
orders for him to be buried in a dunghill, with a little ritual which 
vividly impressed the monks and provoked a general restitution of all 
articles which had passed into private use, whether secretly or through 
the proper channels. 2 This custom of burying monks guilty of the vice 
of ownership in a dunghill, or in unconsecrated ground, is found else 
where. 3 The ordinary punishment was excommunication. At Citeaux 
and among the Carthusians it was the custom to proclaim it solemnly 
on Palm Sunday against all proprietarii. 4 

1 S. GREG. M., Dial., I. II., c. xix. 

2 Dial., 1. IV., c. Iv. P.L., LXXVII., 420. 

3 Cf. S. HIERON., Epist. XXII., 33. P.L., XXII., 418. 
* Cf. MARTENK, in b. /. 



SARIA ACCIPERE. Sicut scriptum est: 
Dividebatur singulis, prout cuique opus 
erat. Ubi non dicimus, quod persona- 
rum (quod absit) acceptio sit, sed infir- 
mitatum consideratio. Ubi qui minus 
indiget, agat Deo gratias, et non con- 
tristetur : qui vero plus indiget, humi- 
lietur pro infirmitate, et non extollatur 
pro misericordia; et ita omnia membra 
erunt in pace. 


It is written: "Distribution was 
made to everyone, according as he had 
need." By this we do not mean that 
there should be respecting of persons 
(God forbid !) but consideration for 
infirmities. Let him, therefore, who 
needs less thank God and be not dis 
tressed; and let him who requires 
more be humbled because of his in 
firmity and not puffed up by the 
mercy that is shown to him: so all 
the members shall be in peace. 

THIS chapter is the complement of the preceding one, for it 
develops and expounds the words : " But let them hope to 
receive all that is necessary from the father of the monastery." 
We shall find the ordinances of these two chapters summarized 
at the end of the fifty-fifth. 1 They are very characteristic of the spirit 
of our Holy Father and mark an epoch in the history of monasticism. 
The religious life began with great austerity which was exacted from all. 
The time was the morrow of the persecutions, and souls were raised to 
the pitch of heroism, ready and even trained for martyrdom. God 
wished strongly to emphasize the idea of renunciation and to give a 
vigorous impulse to the development of monastic institutions. A 
picked body of men and characters of exceptional strength were needed; 
those who could not satisfy these high requirements returned to or 
remained in secular life; as we may see illustrated in St. Antony s method 
of testing the vocation of St. Paul the Simple. But St. Benedict s idea 
is different. Without ceasing to be a picked body and therefore, like 
all such, not very numerous the religious community is to be accessible 
to men of very various temper and very unequal vigour. Perfection 
is to be its normal end, but not its condition. There shall be discretion, 
moderation, and restraint in observances. More than this, the monastic 
life shall model itself on the life of the family and not on a military 
organization. In an army a man is to some degree an anonymous unit, 
bound to furnish the standard amount of work and service; when his 

1 St. Benedict had in mind the words of ST. AUGUSTINE : Non dicatis aliquid proprium, 
sed sint vobis omnia communia: et distribuatur unicuique vestrum a prceposita vestra victus 
et tegumentum; non cequaliter omnibus, quia non aequaliter valetis omnes, sed unicuique sicut 
opus fuerit. Sic enim legitis in Actibus Apostolorum: Quia erant eis omnia communia e\ 
distribuebatur singulis prout cuique opus erat. . . . Qua infirm* sunt ex pristina const 
tudine, si aliter tractantur in victu, non debet aliis molestum esse, nee injustum videri, qua 
fecit alia consuetudo fortiores. Nee illas feliciores putent, quia sumunt quod non sumt 
ipsee: sed sibi potius gratulentur, quia valent quod non valcnt ill<e (Epist. C XL, 5, 9- 
P.L., XXXIII., 960, 961). Cf. S. BASIL., Reg. contr. 



252 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

capacity for endurance is lowered and he becomes a defective unit, he 
is removed and his place and number taken by another. In a family, 
on the contrary, the weaker member gets additional attention; and 
while a military chief must ignore all aspects of the individual which do 
not .concern his duty, and consider almost exclusively the total effect, 
the father of a family is concerned with each of his children in particular, 
" he calleth his own sheep by name " and nothing which affects 
them leaves him unaffected. 

Nor does St. Benedict attempt to reduce all his monks to one uniform 
level. " As it is written " : once more he borrows the exact design of the 
religious life from the conditions of the primitive Church (Acts iv. 35). 
In practice, taking man individually, inequality and not equality is the 
rule; and consequently their treatment should be proportionate and 
not identical. All efforts that are made to escape this law of nature 
involve mistakes and cruelties. And, to return to the Abbot, he should 
give to the brethren according to their real needs ; by which we do not 
mean caprices or claims. The business of settling what is necessary 
does not appertain to the individual; for some temperaments would set 
everything down as necessary; but all have the right to ask, and humility 
and simplicity will know how to do it. The Abbot does not ordinarily 
delegate his powers in this matter of poverty to any official of the 
monastery, precisely because of the special gravity which we have 
seen belongs to the subject, and also because of the disastrous 
results which would follow if a monk were free to get permissions 
from several sources and then combine the various permissions thus 

Nothing is simpler than a system of absolute equality, in which 
government becomes a matter of bureaucracy and mere administration, 
without soul or pity. But, when we have a system of proportional 
equality, and when account has to be taken of individuals, then the 
ruler s task is a very delicate one indeed. There is danger for the Abbot, 
danger for the monk who obtains permission, danger for his brethren. 
Against this threefold peril St. Benedict warns us in the rest of the 
chapter. First he reminds the Abbot of the principle already expounded 
in the second chapter, that he is bound to be attentive to the infirmities 
of each, without acceptance of persons or the pursuit of his own inclina 
tion. But our Holy Father proceeds to add that the Abbot has a right 
to count on the discretion and good spirit of the brethren. The 
government of a house would quickly become impossible, if all set 
themselves, in the spirit of a narrow and slavish self-interest, to watch 
jealously the permissions and relaxations granted to one of their number 
by the father s authority. St. Benedict delineates with delicate skill 
the attitude to be taken by monks with regard to exceptions from the 
common regime. He who needs less, he tells us, should thank God 
and not be distressed that he does not receive special attention; he who 
needs more should be humbled on account of his weakness and not 
puffed up by the mercy which is shown him. In this way there will be 

Whether all ought to receive Necessary Things alike 253 

neither quarrels nor rivalry in the monastery, and all the members of 
this mystical body of the Lord will abide in peace. 

Ante omnia, ne murmurationis Above all things let not the pest 

malum pro qualicumque causa, in of murmuring, for whatever cause, by 

aliquo qualicumque verbo vel signifi- any word or sign, be manifested. If 

catione appareat. Quod si deprehen- anyone be found guilty in this let him 

sus fuerit quis, districtiori discipline be subjected to the most severe 

subdatur. punishment. 

In St. Benedict s eyes, monastic peace is a benefit which surpasses 
all others, as murmuring seems to him the worst of all evils. Above all 
things, he says, let not the pest of murmuring show itself, for any cause 
or in any form whatever, whether in word, or in act, or in some attitude 
that implies discontent. A man may say: " I will make no approaches; 
I will keep out of his way; I will assume a mask of reserve or offended 
dignity, and so let authority perceive that it has failed in its duty. * 
Now, that is sheer anarchy; for authority is destroyed if it become 
subordinated to its subjects. Even should the Abbot take certain 
measures, in this matter of exceptions to the common regime, which 
seem to us unjustifiable, murmuring is a greater evil still. St. Benedict 
says, " for whatever cause." And he stipulates that any monk who 
is found guilty of murmuring should be subjected to very severe 




Fratres sic sibi invicem serviant, ut nul- 
lus excusetur a coquinae officio, nisi aut 
aegritudine, aut in causa gravis utilitatis 
quisoccupatusfuerit; quiaexinde major 
merces acquiritur. Imbecillibus au- 
tem procurentur solatia, ut non cum 
tristitia hoc faciant, sed habeant omnes 
solatia, secundum modum congrega- 
tionis aut positionem loci. Si major 
congregatio fuerit, cellerarius excusetur 
a coquina; vel si qui, ut diximus, 
majoribus utilitatibus occupantur. 
Cseteri vero sibi sub charitate invicem 

Let the brethren so serve each other 
in turn that no one be excused from 
the work of the kitchen unless on the 
score of health, or because he is en 
gaged in some matter of great utility; 
for thence greater reward is obtained. 
Let the weaker brethren, however, 
be helped that they may not do their 
work with sadness : and let all generally 
have assistance according to the num 
ber of the community and the situa 
tion of the place. If the community 
be larger, the cellarer shall be excused 
from the service of the kitchen; and 
any others who are engaged (as we 
have said) in matters of greater utility. 
But let the rest serve one another in 
turn with all charity. 

MAN needs a local habitation; he needs a roof over his head 
and the means to exercise his activities, since he is born to 
labour; and he needs food that he may live. This last need 
is imperious and recurrent, even for monks ; wherefore 
St. Benedict has to devote several chapters to the regulation of meals. 
All that concerns kitchen, refectory, and cellar was put, as we have said, 
under the immediate jurisdiction of the cellarer. Our Holy Father 
deals first with the servers of the kitchen, that is, with the brethren who 
prepare the food and serve at table ; for this twofold duty was fulfilled 
by the same persons. 1 There was not yet any distinction between 
choir-monks and lay brothers. 2 

All the brethren are to serve one another in turn with all charity. 
In this they will imitate the Lord, who declared that He had come into 
the world only to serve: " not to be ministered unto, but to minister." 
Cassian tells us that in the East, save in Egypt, 3 all the monks in their 
turn spent a week thus in the kitchen. We may easily imagine that these 
untrained cooks would not always produce an appetising and dainty 
repast; but tastes were simple, especially in the East. Salted herbs, 
says Cassian, seemed to them a delicious feast; 4 the monks of Egypt 

1 Does St. Benedict really intend to distinguish between the kitcheners and table 
s ewers, when he writes, in Chapter XXXVIII., that the reader will take his meal cum 
coquina bebdomadariis et servitoribus f It is more likely that the servers are brethren 
given as assistants to the officials of the week. 

* The principal source of this chapter is chapter xix. of the fourth book of the 
Institutes of CASSIAN. 

3 //., IV., xxii. * ##., xi. 


Of the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen 255 

were content with fresh or dried vegetables ; and it was a royal banquet 
(summa voluptas) when they were served monthly with hashed leeks, 
salted herbs, ground salt, 1 olives, and tiny salted fish. 2 

No one shall be dispensed from the service of the kitchen, says 
St. Benedict. The more humiliating it is and irksome, the greater will 
be the recompense, and charity too will grow (we should in fact read 
major merccs et caritas acquiritur). At the French Court of former days 
even the commonest services conferred a title of nobility or presupposed 
it: the butler, chamberlain, and constable were great personages. The 
spiritual nobility who form Our Lord s royal court rank above all others, 
and all monastic offices are honourable. Our Holy Father, however, 
recognizes the Abbot s right to exempt certain of the brethren from the 
service of the kitchen : those in ill-health, those who are engaged in more 
important and exacting duties, such as the cellarer of a large community, 
and undoubtedly the Abbot as well. Some ancient Rules 3 except the 
Abbot expressly, while others would have him serve on certain days, 
if he be free. At Cluny, at least in its early days, the Abbot performed 
the service of the kitchen and waited at table on Christmas-day, in 
company with the cellarer and the deans ; the Customs also order that 
the Abbot should be put in the list of servers when his turn comes, but 
as a supernumerary. 4 From motives of discretion our Holy Father 
would have help given to the weak, and ordains that the holders of this 
office should have the assistance of as many brethren as are required by 
the condition and number of the community, or the arrangement of 
the monastery; for the kitchen may be in the basement, the well very 
far away, 6 etc. It is important that the work should be well performed, 
but also that the brethren should perform it without sadness. 

Egressurus de septimana, sabbato Let him who is ending his week s 
munditias faciat. Linteamina, cum service clean up everything on Satur- 
quibus sibi fratres manus aut pedes day. He must wash the towels with 
tergunt, lavet: pedes vero tarn ipse, qui which the brethren wipe their hands 
egreditur, quam ille qui intraturus est, and feet; and both he who is finishing 
omnibus lavent. Vasa ministerii sui his service, and he who is entering on it, 
munda et sana cellerario reconsignet; are to wash the feet of all. Let him 
qui cellerarius item intranti consignet, hand over to the cellarer the vessels 
ut sciat quid dat aut quid recipit. used in his work clean and in sound 

condition; and let the cellarer hand 
them to the one entering on his office, 
that he may know what he gives and 
what he receives. 

After enunciating and explaining the common duty of mutual 
service our Holy Father enters upon certain technical details, in the 
interest of cleanliness and good order. Every Saturday the outgoing 

1 C/. CALMET, in c. xxxv. * Inst., IV., xi. 

3 For instance, the Rule of ST. C^SARIUS ad virgines, xii. 

* UDALR., Consuet. Clun., 1. I., c. xlvi. BERNARD., Ordo Clun., P. I., c. i.Consttt. 
Hirsaug., 1. II., c. xiv. 

5 As in one of the Subiaco monasteries: S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. v. 

256 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

official 1 of the week is to clean up (munditias faciai) in the kitchen and 
in the refectory. On him falls the duty of washing the towels with 
which the brethren dry their hands and feet. Every Saturday too, 
assisted by his successor, he washes the feet of the brethren, in memory 
of the mandatum of Our Lord and as wages for the work of the whole 
week, as Cassian says. Finally, St. Benedict bids him return the vessels 
used in his work to the cellarer, clean and in good condition (munda et 
sana) such as they stood in the inventory made or checked the previous 
week. Constant supervision was necessary in this service, which changed 
hands each week and gave scope for negligence; and this supervision 
was reserved to the cellarer, who kept by him an inventory of the articles 
entrusted to the week s official, just as the Abbot kept the list of all tools 
and instruments distributed to the holders of the various offices 
(Chapter XXXIL). 

Septimanarii autem, ante unam An hour before the meal these 

horam refectionis, accipiant super sta- weekly servers shall receive, over and 

tutam annonam singulos biberes, et pa- above the appointed allowance, a 

nem: ut hora refectionis, sine murmur- draught of wine and a piece of bread, 

atione etgravi labore, serviant fratribus so that they may serve the brethren at 

suis. In diebus tamen solemnibus meal time without murmuring or 

usque ad Missas sustineant. excessive fatigue. On solemn days, 

however, let them wait until after Mass. 

Here we have another act of condescension on the part of the Rule. 
Breakfast did not exist in those days, and St. Benedict speaks only of 
two meals, never of three. Now the weekly servers of the kitchen, 
besides the fatigue of their duties, would also have their dinner hour 
delayed. They did not take their places with their brethren when these 
had been served, as the Rule of the Master prescribes; 2 an observation 
in the thirty-eighth chapter shows that they ate after all the others, 
along with the reader i.e., " at second table," as we say nowadays. 
In order that they may be able to serve without excessive fatigue and 
without murmuring, 3 our Holy Father grants each of them a drink 
and a piece of bread, one hour before the common meal. Calmet says : 
"The word biber, from which comes biberes, is low Latin and signifies, 
in the monastic rules, a small vessel containing enough wine for a draught, 
to refresh oneself." We should translate the words super statutam 
annonam as meaning that it is over and above the ordinary fixed allow 
ance, and not, with some commentators, that it is to be taken from the 
ordinary allowance ; for we may quote Calmet again " the preposition 
super in Latin, like hyper in Greek, naturally signifies superabundance 
and not subtraction." We may add that our Holy Father s intention 
is not to deduct from the ordinary allowance, but to balance by means 
of a little addition the labours attached to the duty of kitchener. He 

1 St. Benedict speaks of the weekly servers sometimes in the singular, sometimes 
in the plural. 

2 Reg. Magistri, xxiii. 

3 Sine murmur? serviant sororibus suis (S. AUG., Ep. CCXI., 13. P.L., XXXIII., 964). 

Of the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen 257 

proceeds to observe that this small anticipation of their meal is on 
solemn days that is to say feast-days and Sundays incompatible with 
the requirements of Communion and the Eucharistic fast. On such 
days all communicate, and this at the Conventual Mass. The kitchen 
officials were not to take advantage of the merciful provision of the Rule 
to omit Holy Communion or break the fast; in spite of the added 
fatigue of the long liturgy they were to wait until after Mass that is, to 
something less than an hour before the common meal to take their 
food. 1 

Intrantes et exeuntes hebdomadarii, On Sunday, as soon as Lauds are 
in oratorio mox Matutinis finitis, ended, both the incoming and out- 
Dominica, omnium genibus provolvan- going servers for the week shall cast 
tur, postulantes prose orari. Egrediens themselves on their knees in the pre- 
autem de septimana dicat hunc versum : sence of all and ask their prayers. Let 
Benedictus es Domine Deus, qui adjuvisti him who is ending his week say this 
me, e tconsolatus es me. Quo dicto tertio, verse: Benedictus es, Domine Deus, qui 
accipiat benedictionem egrediens. adjuvisti me et consolatus es me; and 
Subsequatur ingrediens et dicat: Deus when this has been said thrice, let him 
in adjutorium meum intende, Domine ad receive the blessing. He who is 
adjuvandum me festina. Et hoc idem entering on his office shall then follow, 
tertio repetatur ab omnibus. Et ac- and say: Deus in adjutorium meum 
cepta benedictione, ingrediatur. intende, Domine ad adjuvandum me 

festina. Let this also be thrice re 
peated by all; and having received the 
blessing let him enter on his office. 

The chapter ends with the description of a liturgical rite in two parts 
viz., absolution for the outgoing servers of the week and installation 
of the incoming. On Sunday, immediately after Matins (i.e., Lauds) 
the first prostrate at the feet of all the brethren in the Oratory, begging 
their prayers. 2 They recite thrice (all together, or the senior monk 
only) the verse Benedictus es (Ps. Ixxxv. 17); then the superior gives the 
blessing, doubtless by saying a collect. Those entering on their week 
follow, saying thrice the verse Deus in adjutorium, which the choir repeats 
after them (St. Benedict does not say whether the choir repeated also the 
Benedictus es) ; when the blessing has been received 3 they have entered 
on their week. Thus they were invested with their charge in the name 
of Our Lord, and a duty of a very material kind and one often grievous 
to nature was consecrated by prayer. It became from that moment a 
religious and meritorious work, accomplished for the glory of God. 

1 Cf. PAUL THE DEACON, Commentary in c. xxxv. 

2 Ab omnibus fratribus oratio prosequatur, qua vel pro ignorationibus intercedat vel pro 
admissis bumanafragilitatepeccatis, et commendet Deo velut sacrijvcium pingue consummata 
eorum devotionis obsequia (CASS., Inst., IV., xix.). Among the Eastern monks this was 
done after the evening meal on Sundays. 

3 The two prayers which we use come from Monte Cassino and Cluny (UDALR., 
Consuet. Clun., 1. II., c. xxxv.). 


WE may remember that in Chapter XXXI. St. Benedict con 
fided the sick and children to the care of the cellarer; we may 
remember also that in Chapter XXXIV. the Holy Rule would 
have more attention given to those who require more. To 
make his meaning plain and to clear up some points, our Holy Father, 
after settling the conditions of service in the kitchen, treats separately 
of the care due to the sick and infirm (Chapter XXXVI.), the aged and 
children (Chapter XXXVII.) . The chapters form a kind of parenthesis, 
and after them St. Benedict returns to the subject of the refectory and 


morum cura ante omnia et super omnia 
adhibenda est, ut sicut revera Christo, 
ita eis serviatur, quia ipse dixit: In- 
firmus fui, et visitastis me. Et: Quod 
jecistis uni de his minimis meis, mihi 
fccistis. Sed et ipsi infirmi considerent 
in honorem Dei sibi serviri, et non 
superfluitate sua contristent fratres 
suos servientes sibi. Qui tamen 
patienterportandi sunt: quia de talibus 
copiosior merces acquiritur. Ergo cura 
maxima sit Abbati, ne aliquam negli- 
gentiam patiantur. 

Before all things and above all 
things care must be taken of the sick, 
so that they may be served in very deed 
as Christ Himself; for He has said: 
" I was sick and ye visited me " and, 
" As long as ye did it to one of these, 
my least brethren, ye did it to me." 
But let the sick themselves consider 
that they are served for the honour of 
God, and not grieve their brethren 
who serve them by their importunity. 
Yet must they be patiently borne with, 
because from such as these is gained 
more abundant reward. Therefore 
the Abbot shall take the greatest care 
that they suffer no neglect. 

In this matter, again, the inspiration of faith must guide our conduct. 
In a general way, Our Lord is near us, taking the form of our neighbour 
whoever he may be. Nay, our neighbour is Christ. We live with His 
Real Presence; for we meet with naught else but God, both in us and 
around us. We are ever serving God, and our acts of love ascend to Him. 
" All that ye shall do to one of these my little ones, ye shall do to me " 
(Matt. xxv. 40) . This is more especially true of our religious brethren and 
of their consecrated persons ; and when they suffer, they resemble ourLord 
Jesus Christ all the more. Therefore they shall be served just as though 
they were Christ Himself, for He says: " I was sick and you visited me " 
(Matt. xxv. 36). A gain indeed for the sick, but our gain also. Is not 
this ideal of faith enough to give abundant peace and joy to those visited 
by sickness and debility, and to inspire also in those who tend them true 
tenderness of heart ? It is this very thought, more than a sentiment 
of natural compassion, that caused our Holy Father s emphasis of lan 
guage: " Before all things and above all things care must be taken of the 

Of the Sick Brethren 259 

sick, and they shall be served in very deed as Christ Himself." 1 No 
other Rule displayed so much solicitude with regard to the weak and 

In return for this supernatural tendance with its character of 
reverence, the sick shall endeavour really to resemble the Lord by their 
gentle humility, self-denial, and moderation. They shall remember 
that these attentions are paid, not to their poor persons, but to God 
hidden in them. They shall be careful not to sadden by unreasonable 
demands and unrestrained importunity (superfluitate sua) the brethren 
who are employed in their service, as their brethren and not as their 
servants. According to the author of the Imitation of Christ it is hard 
to grow holy in illness: Pauci ex infirmitate meliorantur (I. xxiii.). We 
become impatient, effeminate, almost luxurious. Temperament re 
asserts itself, and with the help of the devil nature becomes insolent 
again. The habit of living on exceptions and a special regime stealthily 
saps the spirit of monastic observance, and we practically become 
persuaded that sickness dispenses us from being monks. Active suffering 
is perhaps less dangerous from this point of view than a perpetual state 
of indisposition and what is now cafled neurasthenia. To souls who are 
tempted to occupy themselves excessively with the care of their health, 
who are always complaining and always in search of new remedies, we 
might recommend the careful reading of a chapter in the Way of Per 
fection. St. Teresa writes: " Believe it, daughters, when once we begin 
to subdue these bodies of ours they do not so much molest us. There 
will be enough to observe what ye have need of. Take no care for 
yourselves except there be a manifest necessity. Unless we resolve 
once for all to accept death, and the loss of our health, we shall never 
do anything." 2 The letters of the Saint show us, however, how far 
she busied herself with the health of others and how she exercised her 
ingenuity in procuring small luxuries for the sick. A monk, even if 
seriously ill, ought to be able to do without extraordinary and expensive 
remedies, such as a periodical " cure " at some watering-place; and he 
will never ask the help of his family. 

Even if the sick show themselves exacting, says St. Benedict, they 
must be patiently borne with, since from them is gained a more abundant 
reward. Moreover, so that no excuse for complaint may be given, and 
to realize fully what Our Lord expects from our charity, the Abbot must 
watch with the greatest care that the sick are not treated with neglect 
nor suffer from the unskilfulness or ignorance of anyone. 

Quibus fratribus infirmis sit cella And let a cell be set apart by itself 
super se deputata, et servitor timens for the sick brethren and an attendant 
Deum, et diligens ac sollicitus. Bal- be appointed who is God-fearing, 

1 Quali affectu debemus infirmis fratribus ministrare f Sicut ipsi Domino o/erentes 
obsequium, qui dixit: Ouia cum feds tis uni ex minimis is tis fratribus mfis, mibt fecistts 
(S. BASIL., Reg. contr., xxxvi.)- And St. Basil also adds in the second part of this rule 
and in the next that the sick should show themselves worthy of such honour. 

2 Chapter XI. 

260 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

neorum usus infirmis, quoties expedit, prompt, and painstaking. Let the use 
offeratur. Sanis autem, et maxime of baths be granted to the sick as of ten 
juvenibus, tardius concedatur. Sed as it shall be expedient; but to those 
et carnium esus infirmis, omninoque who are well, and especially to the 
debilibus pro reparatione concedatur. young, baths shall be seldom permitted. 
At ubi meliorati fuerint, a carnibus The use of meat, too, shall be per- 
more solito omnes abstineant. mitted to the sick and to the very 

weak, that they may recover their 
strength ; but, when they are restored 
to health, let all abstain from meat 
in the accustomed manner. 

There shall be special accommodation in the monastery for the sick, 
for all who cannot follow the common observance, and who need special 
care, a purer air, and more quiet. In the great abbeys of former days 
the infirmary was almost a second monastery, with its own church, 1 
cloister, kitchen, refectory, and dormitory. Our Holy Father evidently 
means each monastic family to care for its sick in the monastery itself. 
And we might well be astonished should a religious express the desire 
to go seek his cure with, his parents, or friends in the world. Likewise, 
it would be far from consistent with the spirit and traditions of the 
Benedictine Order to collect in a single sanatorium, or in a retreat, all 
the sick of a Congregation or a province. We should deprive them thus 
of that share in the religious life which is compatible with their state 
and leave them to finish their days in very prosaic fashion. Above all, 
we should deprive communities of the advantage of their charity and 
of the edification generally given by the sick and the old. Those who 
are on the threshold of eternity have a special title to the delicate 
attentions which they can only receive from their Abbot and their 
brethren. To prepare them to appear in the presence of Infinite Purity, 
to complete the work of forming them to the image of God, surely this 
is to serve Christ in their persons and to win for ourselves the blessing 
and gratitude of God. The arrangements for the sick in the 
Congregation of St. Maur are noteworthy. In order that they might 
never have to suffer by the pecuniary distress of a particular monastery, 
all the expenses viz., medicines (except white sugar), doctors fees, and 
the fees of chemists and surgeons, food purchased for them, journeys, etc. 
were charged to the Congregation and had to be regulated by the 
Diet. 2 

The cella for the sick is to be entrusted to the infirmarian, whom 

1 The old Customaries dispense the sick from the Divine Office only in very serious 
cases. This is what we read in the Disciplina Farfensis: Illifratres qui non valent surgere, 
e ant famuli servientes eis et educant illos sustentantes ulnis suis in ecclesia, atque collocent 
ut melius potuerint. Ingratum nulli apparere debet bocfactum; quia seepe vidimus in eodem 
diefratremfinire ex hacluce et ad Christum transire, etiam in ipsa ecclesia exhalare spiritum. 
Quis de talibus dubitet quod non statim adregnumpolorum penetrent? . . . Ita debent opus 
Dei per omniaagere sicutsani in monasterio, prater quod leniter atquecursimdicant. . . . ///* 
vero qui ita nimietate injirmitatis detinentur quod nullo modo consurgere valeant, mox ut 
monasterio fuerint celebrata nocturnalia obsequia, annual ille qui ordinem tenet duobus 
fratribus qui illis divinum opus decantent, etc. (1. II., c. Hi.). 

z Regula S. P. Benedicti cum declarationibus Congregations S. Mauri (1663), 
pp. 144-145- 

Of the Sick Brethren 261 

St. Benedict calls the " attendant " (servitor), but who was certainly 
a monk and not a secular. The infirmarian is to have assistants, if 
necessary; St. Benedict implies as much by using the plural servitoribus 
at the end of this chapter. Our Holy Father finds three words adequate 
to sum up the personal qualities of a good infirmarian. He must be 
God-fearing that is, habitually guided by the spirit of faith in all his 
dealings with the sick; he must be prompt, for those who suffer are 
tried by long delays; and he must be attentive and kind. 1 We 
might add that he has a right to absolute obedience from his patients. 
To doctor yourself in your own fashion, or according to the prescriptions 
of brethren who have no authority to interfere, is a very dangerous form 
of self-will: " since they are permitted to have neither body nor will in 
their own power." Moreover, it is by no means profitable for monks 
to take pleasure in discussing their health with one another. 

Without here entering into detail with regard to the treatment 
required by various diseases, 2 St. Benedict only considers two sorts of 
relief viz., baths and the use of flesh meat. We know how plentiful 
at Rome were the tbermce or public baths. Every great house had its 
baths, and they formed part of the daily programme of every gentleman. 
Monasticism complied with this custom in a measure; and Cassiodorus, 
St. Benedict s contemporary, installed baths in his monastery of Vivarium. 
They were indispensable in a hot country for monks who devoted them 
selves to manual labour and did not wear underclothing. And obviously 
monks did not go to the public baths, first because they rarely dwelt in a 
town, and then because such public bathing would have had its dangers. 
St. Benedict requires that baths be offered to the sick, not sparingly, 
but as often as health may be benefited by them. " But to those who 
are well, and especially to the young, baths shall seldom be permitted." 
Our Holy Father does not dispense the healthy and the young from a 
measare of precaution which is doubly necessary in community life. 
Certainly he makes a limitation; but this limitation is not inspired by 
a sort of foolish panic, otherwise he would simply have forbidden the 
use of baths. The word tardius (lit., more slowly) should be considered 
in the light of Roman custom and of the generous treatment which 
St. Benedict employs towards the sick. It is notorious that baths, 
especially hot baths, when very frequent, have the result of enervating 
the body, and of inducing sloth and a sort of decay of the will. St. Bene 
dict did not want worldly manners in his monasteries; yet he stipulates 
that baths be offered to the sick, while being permitted, at rarer intervals, 
to those in health. 3 The ancient monks often took our Holy Father s 

1 Cf. S. CAESAR., Reg. ad virgines, xxx. 

2 On the subject of bloodletting (minutid) and the employment of doctors by the 
ancient monks, see CALMET, in b. /. On the treatment of sick, dying, and dead monks, 
see H^FTEN, 1. XL, tract, v. MARTENE, De ant. monach. rit., 1. V., c. viii.-xiii. PIGNOT 
gives a summary of the customs of Cluny : Hist, de VOrdre de Cluny, t. II., pp. 434~435> 

3 Lavacra etiam, cujus infirmitas exposcit, minime denegentur: sed fiat sine murmura 
tione de consilio medicine. . . . Si autem n dla infirmitate compellitur, cupiditau su< non 
pr&beatur assensus (S. C^SAR., Reg. ad virg., xxix.). 

262 Commentary on the Rule oj St. Benedict 

restriction too literally. Paul the Deacon observes that they bathed 
once, twice, or three times a year. Calmet writes : " At present, 
especially in temperate regions, the use of them is almost abolished. 
Likewise there is now no question in monasteries of regular household 
baths. In case of sickness permission is given to go to the public baths, 
with the reservations and precautions of which we have spoken." But 
hygiene and charity may take this matter differently without injuring 
monastic austerity or the spirit of mortification. 1 

St. Benedict adds tliat the sick and those who are very weak 2 may 
eat meat " that they may recover their strength " (pro reparatione). 
And, to mark plainly the character of this concession, our Holy Father 
would have it end so soon as their health no longer requires it. Then, 
all will abstain from mtat in the accustomed manner (more solito). 3 
The same recommendation is repeated in Chapter XXXIX., and we 
may reserve our commentary till then. 

Curam autem maximam habeat Let the Abbot take all possible 

Abbas, ne a cellerariis aut servitoribus care that the sick be not neglected by 

negligantur infirmi: quia ad ipsum the cellarers or their attendants; 

respicit, quicquid a discipulis delin- because he is responsible for whatever 

quitur. is done amiss by his disciples. 

For the second time the Abbot is required to take very great care of 
the sick. He must watch that they be not neglected by the cellarers 
or the infirmarians ; for he is responsible for all the shortcomings of his 
disciples. Let us add that no one in the monastery may be indifferent 
to the sick; all should remember them in their prayers and visit them 
with the permission of the Abbot. But the ordinances of the Rule 
do not lapse in the case of the sick, and their cells should never be turned 
into parlours. 

1 On the care of tonsure and beard among the ancient monks, see H^EFTEN, 1. V., 
tract, ix. MARTENE, De ant. monaeh. rit., 1. V., c. vii. CALMET, Commentary on 
Chapter I. 

2 We should read infirm <; omnino debilibus. 

|^| 3 Pullos et carnes nunquam sani accipiant; infirmis quicquid necesse fuerit minis tretur 
(S. CJESAR., Reg. ad mon., xxiv.). Quia sole t fieri, ut cella monasterii non semper bonum 
vinum habeat, ad sanctce Abbatisste curam pertinebit ut tale vinum provideat, unde aut 
infirma, aut ilia quee sunt delicatius nutritce, palpentur (S. CESAR., Reg. ad virg., xxviii.). 
AZgrotantes sic tractandee sunt, ut citius convalescant; sed cum vires pristinas reparaverint, 
redeant adfeliciorem abstinentia consuetudinem (ibid.) xx.). 



DE SENIBUS VEL iNFANTiBus. Licet Although human nature of itself 
ipsa natura humana trahatur ad miseri- is drawn to feel pity and consideration 
cordiam in his aetatibus, senum videli- for these two times of life viz. for old 
cetet infantum: tamen et regular auc- men and children yet the authority 
toritas eis prospiciat. Consideretur of the Rule should also provide for 
semper in eis imbecillitas, et nullatenus them. Let their weakness be always 
eis districtio regular teneatur in alimen- taken into account, and let the full 
tis; sed sit in eis pia consideratio, et rigour of the Rule as regards food be 
praeveniant horas canonicas. in no wise maintained in their regard; 

but let a kind consideration be shown 
for them, and let them anticipate the 
regular hours. 

MERE humanity, says St. Benedict, will give us sympathy and 
indulgence towards these two periods of life, old age and child 
hood; yet the authority of the Rule should also intervene 
in their favour. Charity is something better than mere philan 
thropy, and the fundamental motive of our actions should be super 
natural. Moreover, we must note carefully that dispensations, permis 
sions, and kindly interpretations of the Rule, appertain still to the Rule 
and emanate from authority; they have not their source in caprice, 
arbitrary action, or relaxation. 

Therefore regard shall always be shown towards the weakness of 
children and the aged, and the austerity of the Rule as to food shall by 
no means be applied to them. 1 Instead they shall be treated with a 
tender considerateness and permitted to eat before the regular hours 
($r(Bveniant boras canonicas). In one word, everything shall be done so 
that the monastic life, which does not consist in levelling and uniform 
ity, may remain possible for them. St. Benedict did not think it proper 
to enter into precise details, but has left all to the discretion of the Abbot. 
It is his duty to determine, in each case, when childhood ends and when 
old age begins; to decide whether one or several supplementary meals 
should be granted, or only some small instalments, analogous to the 
solace supplied to the kitchen servers, readers, and monks who have 
been employed in some fatiguing occupation. We know from a 
sentence in Chapter LXIII. that the children had their meals with the 
community. Discussing the words in alimentis, D. Menard observes 
that the exceptions spoken of by St. Benedict concerned the quality 
rather than the quantity of food, for we find in Chapter XXXIX. the 

1 Vinum tantum senes accipiunt, quibus cum parvulis sape Jit prandium, ut aliorum 
fessa sustentetur <etas, aliorum nonfrangatur incipiens (S. HIERON., Ep. XXII., 35. P-L-, 
XXII., 420). In cena mensa ponitur propter laborantes, senes et pueros, astusque gravts- 
simos (S. HIERON., Prarfatio in Reg. S. Pachom., 5). 


264 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

words " the same quantity shall not be given to young children, but 
a lesser amount than to their elders." The child s stomach, says 
D. Menard, is too small to digest an abundance of viands; an 
old man s stomach is too cold, and indulgence in an ill-regulated 
diet might destroy the little heat that is left; as Hippocrates 


DE HEBDOMADARIO LECTORE. When the brethren are taking their 

Mensis fratrum edentium lectio deesse meals there should always be reading, 

non debet; nee fortuito casu, qui arri- Yet no one shall presume at haphazard 

puerit codicem legere audeat ibi, sed to take the book and read ; but let him 

lecturus tota hebdomada, Dominica who is to read throughout the week 

ingrediatur. enter on his office on Sunday. 

READING must never be lacking at the public meals. Cassian 1 
tells us that this custom conies from the Cappadocian 2 monks 
and not from those of Egypt; St. Benedict found it in St. 
Caesarius as well. 3 The purpose is clear, and was as follows. 
Though their meals were frugal in the extreme, it aimed at distracting 
attention from that poor pittance and at moderating the animal satis 
faction in eating and drinking by an appeal to the things of piety and the 
mind; that is the motive invoked by St. Basil. However, Cassian notes 
another: "It cannot be doubted," he says, "that the Cappadocians 
adopted this practice, not so much for the spiritual nurture of their 
minds, as for the purpose of cutting short superfluous and idle talk 
and especially those disputes which arise at most meals; they saw no 
other way of suppressing them." Monastic tradition adopted this 
reading at table unanimously. Often it even took the plural mensis 
of the text quite literally, so that there was reading at first table *.., 
at the community meal; reading at second table i.e., the servers meal; 
reading at the table of the Abbot and guests; reading for the sick; and 
even at the meals of monks on a journey. 

What was read? Calmet says: "In the Order of St. Benedict, 
Sacred Scripture was more commonly read; and since each part of the 
year has its special books of the Scriptures to be read in choir, what was 
not read in the choir was read in the refectory, in such a way that, in 
the course of the year, the whole of the Scriptures was read both in the 
choir and in the refectory. Often the homily begun at Matins was 
continued in the refectory. The Acts and Passions of the saints and 
martyrs were also read there. . . ." The Rule too was read, perhaps 
from the time of St. Benedict himself; for he says: " We wish this Rule 
to be read frequently in the community so that no brother may plead 
ignorance as an excuse " (Chapter LXVI.) Custom now adds to this list 
certain historical works which are concerned in some way with Church 
matters or the monastic life. We may profit much by the reading in 
the refectory. If the refectory be a place where we recruit our bodily 
1 Inst., IV., xvii. 2 Cf. S. BASIL., Reg. brev., clxxx. 

3 Sedentes ad mensam taceant, et animum lectioni intendant. Cum autem lectio 
verit, meditatio sancta de corde non cesset. Si vero aliquid opus fuerit, qua mensce praest 
sollicitudinem gerat, et quod est necessarium nutu magis quam voce petal. Nee sola vobis 
fauces sumant cibum, sed et aures audiant Dei verbum (Reg. ad virg., xvi.). Cj. Keg. c 
man., ix. 


266 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

strength, it is also a place where prayer is easy and intellectual labour 
very sweet and almost unconscious. 

Let us speak now of the reader. His office is grave, and it should be 
fulfilled with gravity. The first-comer, chosen haphazard, or even 
appointed by his own choice and impelled by the desire of self-display, 
shall not seize the book and make himself, impromptu, the reader for 
r. meal; reading in the refectory is to be a regular office, commencing 
on the Sunday and continuing throughout the whole week. At the 
end of the chapter, in a final sentence which seems to have been added 
at the dictate of experience, St. Benedict comes back to this regulation. 
Neither individual will, nor chance and circumstances, nor the order of 
the community, should designate those who are to read or chant, 
whether in refectory or choir; the Abbot must choose those who can 
make themselves heard and understood, and be really useful to their 
brethren: who can "edify" them. In the time of St. Benedict not 
everyone could read; and even nowadays to be able to read well in public 
in a large refectory is not a common gift. Aptitudes differ, but in any 
case it is difficult to read without preparation. If we respect ourselves 
and our audience we shall prepare carefully. A man must be able to 
divide clauses intelligently, and to break up a period in such a way as to 
give each portion of it its proper value. And this may be realized even 
in the style of reading called recto tono (monotone) ; for properly speaking 
there is no such reading, since intelligence and accentuation are every 
instant modulating quite perceptibly the note on which the reading is 
read. It is not necessary to have a powerful voice, nor even a clear one; 
but it is important to know the voice which you have and the place 
in which you are reading, and to adjust yourself to these conditions. 
The settled purpose of making yourself heard at both ends of the room 
involves an unconscious adaptation of means to end. We should read 
slowly, articulate mute syllables, without swelling the voice on the open 
ones, and remember that we are not reading privately nor holding a 
conversation. In the midst of noise and when minds are inevitably 
distracted, it is indispensable that the meaning should reach each one 
where he sits and that no effort should be needed to catch it. 

Qui ingrediens, post Missas et com- Let this brother, when beginning 

munionem petat ab omnibus pro se his service, ask all after Mass and Com- 

orari, ut avertat ab eo Deus spiritum munion to pray for him, that God may 

elationis. Et dicatur hie versus in keep from him the spirit of pride, 

oratorio tertio ab omnibus, ipso tamen And let this verse be said thrice in the 

incipiente: Domine labia mea aperies, oratory by all, he, the reader, first 

et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam; et beginning: Domine labia mea aperies, 

sic accepta benedictione, ingrediatur et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam. 

adlegendum. And so, having received the blessing, 

let him enter on his reading. 

Investiture in this office, as was the case with the kitchen servers, is 
accomplished by a blessing. The blessing of the reader took place after 
Mass and Communion on Sundays. The brother begged the prayers 
of all, either in words, or by prostrating or bowing in the middle of the 

The Weekly Reader 267 

choir. He said thrice the verse Domine (Ps. 1. 17) and the whole com 
munity repeated it after him. Then the Abbot gave the blessing, 
probably chanting a collect; " and so, having received the blessing, let 
him enter on his reading." We have preserved the whole of this rite, 1 
and in the collect we ask God to avert from the reader " the spirit of 
pride and ignorance." 2 Our Holy Father mentions only pride explicitly. 
In His time, as we may repeat, only a picked few could read Latin well, 
without clumsiness or barbarism. Moreover, this spiritual precaution 
against vanity is always seasonable; for the reader occupies a conspicuous 
position; he alone is speaking amidst universal silence; he is tempted 
to think that he is producing a great effect; and he is liable to look 
round him to make sure of the general admiration. 

Summumque fiat silentium ad men- Let the greatest silence be kept at 
sam, ut nullius mussitatio vel vox, nisi table, so that no whispering nor voice, 
solius legentis, ibi audiatur. Quae vero save the voice of the reader alone, be 
necessaria sunt comedentibus et biben- heard there. Whatever is required 
tibus,sibisicinvicemministrentfratres, for eating and drinking the brethren 
ut nullus indigeat petere aliquid. Si shall minister to each other so that 
quid tamen opus fuerit, sonitu cujus- no one need ask for anything. But 
cumquesignipotiuspetaturquamvoce. should anything be wanted, let it be 
Nee praesumat ibi aliquis de ipsa lee- asked for by the noise of some sign 
tione, aut aliunde quicquam requirere, rather than by the voice. Let no one 
ne detur occasio maligno, nisi forte ask any question there about what is 
prior voluerit pro sedificatione aliquid being read or about anything else, lest 
breviter dieere. occasion be given to the Evil One; 

unless, perhaps, the superior should 
wish to say something briefly for the 
edification of the brethren. 

Complete and profound silence should reign at table, a strict law 
which has prevailed always and everywhere among monks. 3 No 
whispering should be heard in the refectory, nor any other voice but 
that of the reader. Interchange of ideas is forbidden, even though 
performed in a low voice, and into your neighbour s ear. It would be 
very bad taste to read your letters during the reading, or some book 
of your own which interests you more. Likewise we should give up 
mocking and sly applications or allusions, made by means of gestures or 
smiles or fixed looks; doubtless we have not got to be impassive as statues 
in the refectory, no more than in the oratory; but these petty manifes 
tations, even though they hurt no one, are seldom becoming. 

1 And we have also adopted the very ancient custom of asking a blessing before the 
reading which accompanies each meal. Cf. UDALR., Consuet. Clun., 1. II., c. xxxiv. 

2 The form we employ is very like the one already indicated by SMARAGDUS: Averte, 
qu<esumus, Domine, ab hoc famulo tuo spiritum elationis, ut bumiliter legens, sensum 
intellectum capiat lectionis. 

3 See the enactments collected by MARTENE in his Commentary. Est autem eiset 
in capiendo cibo summum silentium (RUFIN., Hist, monacb., c. m. ROSWEYD, p. 45;- 
Tantum silentium ab omnibus exbibetur, ut, cum in unum tanta numerosttas Jratrum re 
tionis obtentu consederit, nullus ne muttire quidem audeat prater eum, gut sua det 
prxest, gut tamen si quid mensa superinferri vel auferri necessanum esse pervidertt, so 
potius quam voce stgnificat (CASS., Int., IV., xvii.)--C/. S. PACH., Reg., xxxu 

S. CAESAR., Reg. ad virg., xvi. 

268 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Not even fraternal charity excuses a breakage of silence. Cassian 
tells us that in the monastery of St. Pachomius " each monk had his 
hood lowered over his eyes, so that he could see only the table and the 
food placed before him, and so that none could note the manner in 
which his neighbour ate nor the quantity of his portion." St. Benedict 
is more amiable and courteous, prescribing that the brethren shall serve 
each other with all that is necessary for the meal, so that no one may have 
need to ask for anything, and the law of silence be kept, and of charity 
also. No one should be so absorbed in his own business as to be unable 
to perceive what his brethren lack. Moreover, there are the bebdoma- 
darii and the kitchen servers, moving to and fro and attentive all through 
the meal. If there be need to ask anything from your neighbour or 
the servers, it should be done by means of a sign, by some recognized 
sound, rather than by words : Sonitu cujuscumque signi potius petatur quam 
voce. Several ancient Rules express themselves in the same terms. 
Evidently some moderate sign was intended, for a great clatter would 
have been as prejudicial to recollection and the reading as talking. 
Modern monastic customs have suppressed all signs of a noisy character; 
only in cafes is the waiter summoned by striking a glass or the table. 

The refectory silence maybe broken not only by noise and by exchange 
of words relative to the serving, but also, St. Benedict says, by questions 
about the reading or some other subject. No one would venture in 
practice to address a question to the superior at this time; but we may 
be tempted to engage in a little dialogue with a neighbour. The Rule 
does not allow it, ne detur occasio, so that every occasion of levity, dis 
putation, and pride may be suppressed. The word maligno (to the Evil 
One) does not belong to the original text, but is a gloss added by analogy 
with two other passages of the Rule (in Chapters XLIII. and LIV.). 

The hours when we give our bodies what they require in order to live 
are dangerous hours, as are those immediately after the meal; it is wise 
to protect oneself then against the attacks of the devil; which is one of 
the reasons why we sanctify our meals with prayer, reading, and silence. 
Our Holy Father allows only the superior (prior} to say a few words " for 
edification," but briefly, and he need not consider himself obliged to do so. 1 

Frater autem hebdomadarius acci- The brother who is reader for the 

piat mixtum prius quam incipiat legere, week shall receive a sop before he 

propter communionem sanctam, et ne begins to read, on account of the Holy 

forte grave sit ei jejunium sustinere: Communion, and lest it be too hard 

postea autem cum coquinae hebdoma- for him to fast so long. He shall take 

dariis et servitoribus reficiat. his meal afterwards with the weekly 

cooks and servers. 

These final directions concern the meal of the weekly reader. In 
the first place, before commencing to read, 2 he is to receive a mixtum. 

1 Nee alicujus audiatur sermo, nisi divinus, qui ex pagina proferatur, et ejus qui pr&est 
Patris (Reg. I. SS. PATRUM, viii.). Ad mensam specialiter nullus loquatur, nisi quipreeest, 
vel qui interrogate fuer it (S. MACAR., Reg. xviii.). 

2 Perhaps immediately before and not ante unam boram as the kitchen servers: 
these latter needed to be fortified for the immediate preparations of the meal, the most 
trying part of their work. 

The Weekly Reader 269 

The word mixtum meant for the ancients wine mixed with substances 
which tempered its taste and strength, or wine diluted with water, and 
so contrasted with merum (unmixed wine) ; sometimes it merely means 
wine or any beverage, just as the word miscere (to mix) signifies to pour 
out for drinking. It is possible that by the " mixture " granted to the 
reader St. Benedict means only a cup of wine diluted with water; 1 but 
it is certain that, shortly after his time, many assimilated it in practice 
to the little extra allowance granted to the kitchen servers, the singulos 
biberes et panem^ and the mixtum became a draught of wine with some 
pieces of bread steeped in it. 

Our Holy Father gives two reasons for this custom. Both are valid 
only for the first meal, which was often the sole meal of the day. And 
the first reason given, " on account of the Holy Communion," holds 
only for Sundays and solemn feasts, the days on which all the monks 
received Holy Communion. In this case the mixtum certainly plays 
the part of an ablution. In the first centuries of the Church (as still 
done now at certain liturgical functions, such as ordination, profession, 
etc.) communicants were given a draught of unconsecrated wine 
(sometimes with a morsel of bread), in order to help the swallowing 
of the sacred species and to prevent any accident. In St. Benedict s 
practice the meal probably followed Mass very closely. 2 And it is 
possible that the custom of Monte Cassino was the same as that which 
we find in the Rule of the Master, where dinner commenced with the 
distribution of blessed wine with some morsels of bread steeped in it; 
the Master orders that the reader also should take this beverage and 
he gives as reason: " As soon as the Abbot first of all at the table has 
taken his wine, let the reader also take his lest he spit out the Sacrament, 
and so let him begin to read." 3 On Sundays and feast-days, according 
to St. Benedict s provision, the kitchen servers also took their little 
refection after Mass, and, on those days, in company with the reader. 
When there was not Holy Communion, the mixtum at least took the 
edge off hunger, and allowed the monk to wait without excessive fatigue 
for the meal which reader, weekly servers, and cooks took together. Our 
Holy Father does not tell us whether the reader received this mixtum 
before supper also. 

Fratres autem non per ordinem The brethren, however, are not to 

legant aut cantent, sed qui sedificent read or chant according to their order, 
audientes. but such onl 7 as ma / edi fy the hearers 

The explanation of this short sentence is given at the beginning of 
the chapter. 

1 Cf. Explication ascetique et bistorique de la Rlgle de saint Benott, chapter xxxviii. 

2 Cf. PAUL THE DEACON, Commentary in c. xxxv., pp. 333~334- 

3 Reg. Magistri, xxiv.; cf. ibid., xxvii. Read the commentary of CALMET on our 
text, and especially, in the Outrages postbumes of MABILLON (t. II., pp. 2 7^3jo), th. 
TraitS ou Von refute la nouvelle explication que quelques auteurs donnent aux mots de JfffM 
et de Communion qui se trouvent dans la Regie de saint Beno^t, and the Addition au prA 
dent traite. 




credimus ad refectionem quotidianam 
tarn sextae, quam nonae, omnibus men- 
sis cocta duo pulmentaria, propter 
diversorum infirmitates: ut forte qui 
ex uno non poterit edere, ex alio re- 
ficiatur. Ergo duo pulmentaria cocta 
fratribus sufficiant; et si fuerint inde 
poma, aut nascentia leguminum, ad- 
datur et tertium. 

We think it sufficient for the daily 
meal, whether at the sixth or the ninth 
hour, that there be at all the tables two 
dishes of cooked food, because of the 
variety of men s weaknesses: so that 
he who may not be able to eat of the 
one may make his meal of the other. 
Therefore let two cooked dishes suffice 
for the brethren; and if there be any 
fruit or young vegetables, let a third 
dish be added. 

IF the Fathers of the desert could have read this chapter of the Rule 
they would perhaps have regarded its provisions as lax. Some 
of their masters 1 certainly recommended discretion in abstinence 
and fasting, quite in St. Benedict s fashion; but the most generous 
measure of an Eastern monk is less than the fare which our Holy Father 
allows daily to his disciples, comprising as this does three courses. And 
yet St. Benedict only puts this regime forward with reserve, as a reason 
able mean allowance (sufficere credimus), leaving the Abbot power to add 
to it. Such considerateness is easily justified if we recognize the entirely 
relative value of mortification 2 and remember the end at which our 
Holy Father was aiming. He wished to make the monastic life accessible 
to souls that might be deterred by extreme austerity. He wished to 
adapt his Rule to Western constitutions, and to a more rigorous climate, 
which compels men to compensate for the lack of external warmth by 
the use of more potent bodily fuel. We must add that he wrote for 
men who not only performed long liturgical duties, but also laboured 
in the open air for part of the day. The fare which he gives his monks 
is practically peasants fare, simple and plentiful. 

At all the tables 3 (that is to say, at those occupied by the monks in 
small groups, under the presidency of the deans ; or else at the community 
table, the servers table, and the Abbot s) at all the tables two cooked 
dishes (cocta duo pulmentaria)* shall be served; St. Benedict does not 
think it suitable or even possible to be precise as to their nature. Usage 

1 S. BASIL., Reg.fus., xix. CASS., Conlat., II., xvi.-xxvi. 

2 CASS., Conlat.j XXI., xi.-xvii. 

3 In spite of what CALMET says, the best reading of the manuscripts is certainly this, 
and not omnibus mensibus, at every season; the fact is that a difference was sometimes 
made between the regime of summer and that of winter: Cf. CATO, De re rustica, 
c. Ivi.-lviii. Cato would have workers receive a hemina of wine in the fourth month, 
three hemina in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh. He speaks in the same place about the 
pulmentarium of olives. 

4 Pulmentarium means a dish of any sort, but especially stew, mash, or pudding: 
cf. CALMET, in b. I. 


Of the Measure of Food 27 1 

has varied enormously in this matter, nor need we attempt to summarize 
it. Vegetables have always formed the basis of monastic fare; eggs, 
fish, and milk products appeared more rarely at their table in former days. 
At Cluny they served cooked beans every day, and this was the staple 
dish par excellence. 1 St. Benedict naturally does not order the eating 
of the two dishes; he allows them so that all appetites may be satisfied 
and that all may recruit their strength: propter diver sorum infirmitates. 
He adds that, thanks to the two courses, a brother who cannot eat of 
one will be able to make his meal on the other. But have we the right, 
according to the Rule, to patronize both ? Commentators are agreed 
among themselves, and with custom, in answering in the affirmative. 
So let two cooked dishes suffice for the brethren, continues St. Benedict ; 
and let a third be added of fruit or fresh vegetables, if they can be 
procured easily that is to say, if they are in the monastery garden 
(sifuerint inde [or unde]) . 

The menu our Holy Father has just given is that of the whole day 
the quantity of food supplied each day or the daily fare whether there 
were two meals or only one, both in Lent and during the rest of the year. 
At least that is the best-founded interpretation 2 of the very concise 
phrase of the Rule : " for the daily meal whether at the sixth or the ninth 
hour." St. Benedict only speaks of the meal at the sixth or ninth hour; 
when dinner was at the sixth hour there was supper in the evening, but 
the meal at the sixth hour was the chief one and probably furnished 
supper not only with that third part of bread of which St. Benedict 
speaks presently, but also with such articles of food as were better suited 
to a frugal supper. On the fast-days appointed by the Rule, dinner 
was at the ninth hour; during the ecclesiastical Lent, the sole meal 
was taken in the evening; but the quantity of food was always the 
same, St. Benedict leaving it to the discretion of each individual to make 
such retrenchment as was compatible with health and obedience 
(Chapter XLIX.). Most ancient monastic customaries confirm these 

Panis libra una propensa sufficiat Let a pound weight of bread suffice 
in die, sive una sit refectio,sive prandii for each day, whether there be but one 
et cense. Quod si cenaturi sunt, de meal, or both dinner and supper. If 
eadem libra tertia pars a cellerario they are to sup let a third part of the 
servetur, reddenda cenaturis. pound be kept back by the cellarer 

and given to them for supper. 

Every day, whether there be but one meal or both dinner and 
supper, a pound of bread shall suffice, a generous pound of full weight, 
turning the scale definitely (propensa). If there be supper, the cellarer 
shall reserve the third part of this pound. Markings made in the baking 
probably facilitated this partition. 3 Endless discussions have arisen as 
to the exact quantity of the " pound weight," just as with the hemina 

1 BERNARD., Ordo Clun., P. I., c. vi., xlvii. UDALR., Consuet. Clun., 1. II., c. xxv. 

* See especially the Commentary of CALMET. 

3 Cf. S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. I., c. xi. P.L., LXXVII., 212. 

2J2 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

of wine spoken of in the next chapter. 1 All these researches have their 
interest for curiosity and erudition, but they have none whatever as 
true commentary and elucidation of the Rule. Even if we suppose that 
measures, while keeping the same names, have not varied with time and 
country, it is clear in the case before us that our Holy Father employs 
the customary measures in an approximate and not in an exact way. 
His pound of bread is something over a pound, the capacity of his 
hemina is perhaps calculated in a way that would satisfy the requirements 
of weaker brethren. But what is still more decisive is the care which the 
monks of Monte Cassino took to preserve the weight of bread and 
measure of wine fixed by our Holy Father. They carried them to Rome 
in A.D. 581, when they were driven out by the Lombards; 2 perhaps 
Petronax and the restorers of Monte Cassino recovered them, thanks 
to Pope Zachary (A.D. 741-752) ; 3 finally, Theodemar, Abbot of Monte 
Cassino, sent to Charlemagne the measures of bread and wine as deter 
mined by St. Benedict. 4 All these precautions were superfluous, if 
the pound and the hemina were invariable measures, known to all and 
in current use. And it is quite clear that they were not preserved 
as memorials of our Holy Father, but as special standards appointed by 
him. 5 The Roman pound was equivalent, according to recent calcu 
lations, to 327-45 grammes (n- ounces avoirdupois approx.). 6 This 
would be a small amount as the daily ration of men working in the 
fields. Calmet says there is reason to believe that St. Benedict did not 
take the Roman pound, containing 12 ounces (Roman), but the pound 
of commerce, containing i6. 7 Many commentators find even this 
too small. Our Constitutions wisely declare that, since the value of St. 
Benedict s pound is unknown, bread shall be given without restriction. 

Quod si labor forte factus fuerit If, however, their work have been 

major, in arbitrio et potestate Abbatis greater, it shall be at the will and in the 

crit, si expediat, aliquid augere, remota power of the Abbot, if it be expedient, 

prae omnibus crapula, ut nunquam to make some addition, provided that 

surripiat monacho indigeries: quia excess be before all things avoided, sic contrarium est omni chris- that no monk suffer from surfeiting, 

tiano quomodo crapula, sicut ait For nothing is more contrary to any 

Dominus noster: Videte ne graventur Christian life than excess, as Our Lord 

1 Cf. HJEFTEN, 1. X., tract, iii.-iv. LANCELOT, Dissertation sur Vhemine de vin et 
sur la lime de-pain de saint Benoist et des autres anciens religieux (Paris, 1667; second and 
more complete edition, 1668). MABILLON, Acta SS. O.S.B., Ssec. IV., P. I., Praef., 

2 Cf. PAULI DIAC., De gestis Langobardorum, 1. IV., c. xviii. P.L., XCV., 548. 

3 Ibid., 1. VI., c. xl. P.L., XCV., 650-65 1. 

4 PAULI DIAC., Epist. I. P.L., XCV., 1585. 

5 There is preserved at Monte Cassino a bronze weight of 1550 grammes (nearly 
3$ lb.), which DOM TOSTI thinks is the libra propensa of St. Benedict: Delia vita di 
San Benedetto, capo v. (edizione illustrata, p. 194). But is not this the weight of a 
loaf which was divided among several monks ? (Cf. CALMET, Commentary on 
Chapter XXXIX., pp. 39-40). 

6 DAREMBERG and SAGLIO, Dictionnaire des Antiquites grecques et romaines: Libra, iv. 

7 In France the Paris pound, which was most widely spread, contained 16 ounces, 
each equivalent to 30-59 grammes (1-08 oz. avoir.). 

Of the Measure of Food 273 

corda vestra in crapula et ebrietate. says: "Take heed to yourselves lest 
Pueris vero minori aetate non eadem perhaps your hearts be overcharged 
servetur quantitas, sed minor quam with surfeiting and drunkenness." 
majoribus, servata in omnibus parcitate. And kt not the same quantity be 

allotted to children of tender years, 
but less than to their elders, frugality 
being observed in all things. 

However large already the ordinary daily allowance of food and 
drink, St. Benedict still leaves the Abbot the power to add to it, if he 
think fit, as for example in the case of extraordinary toil. So he does 
not purpose to drive all his monks by rule to heroic mortification and 
extreme severity towards the flesh. The Abbot s function is not to 
crush his monks, but to establish a just ratio between their work and the 
physical recruitment which it requires. Only he must beware of excess. 
Above all things, his adjustments must never favour gluttony, and a 
monk must never be surprised by the shameful consequences of excess: 
(indigeries). For nothing is so degrading, not alone for a monk, but 
for any Christian, as such excess. Our Lord was addressing all His 
followers when He said: "Take heed to yourselves lest perhaps your 
hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness " (Luke xxi. 34). 
St. Benedict adds that the children in the monastery shall have a quantity 
suitable to their age; and, along with the considerate treatment that they 
merit, there will also be in all things such austerity as is agreeable to the 
life which they have already professed. 

In our days, perhaps, the tendency to excess will display itself rather 
in fastidiousness and singularity than in gluttony properly so called. 
And, strangely enough, it is actually necessary sometimes to persuade 
people to eat, just as though they were Manicheans and eating was sinful. 
We sometimes meet with wrongheaded folk who regard eating and drink 
ing as a humiliating function, and do themselves great injury by their 
monomania. Such as these need watching and even constraint. But, 
apart from these pathological cases, the Abbot leaves each individual 
free to decide in God s sight what he should take and what deny himself. 
We eat to live; we take what is needful to sustain us in our work, and fit 
us to face our duty; and always must we observe that rule of good 
breeding, health, and mortification which bids us stop before satiety. 1 
Nor should the refectory and its business become the preoccupation of 
our lives, a constant and harassing anxiety. 

The idea of compensations and additions to the ordinary fare has 
generally been well understood and realized under various forms. The 
customaries and cartularies of the Middle Ages often mention extra 
courses and the distribution of " pittances." At Cluny, in the end, they 
regularly added to the beans and other vegetables a " general " or 
" pittance " of eggs, fish, and cheese. By " general " was meant a portion 
served to each monk on a special plate; the " pittance " was a dish for 
two. 2 Modern stomachs cannot manage the solid meals of our ancestors. 

1 Cf. CASS., Inst ., V., viii. S. AUG., Confess., 1. X., c. xxxi. P.L., XXXII., 797 sq : 
8 UDALRIC gives this definition, Consuet. Clun., 1. II., c. xxxv.j cj. 1. III., c. x^ 

274 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

It is true that they submitted to blood-letting, often a monthly occur 
rence; but to compensate at once for this lowering treatment, the patient 
was given a substantial " general " and submitted to a thorough regime 
of feeding up. 

Carnium vero quadrupedum ab But let all abstain from eating the 

omnibus abstineatur comestio, praeter flesh of four-footed animals, except the 
omnino debiles et segrotos. very weak and the sick. 

We may remind ourselves of what St. Benedict said in reference to 
the sick in the thirty-sixth chapter: "The use of meat too shall be 
permitted to the sick," etc. In this place also we have the same pro 
hibition for the healthy and the same exception for the seriously ill or 
weak. But St. Benedict here makes the scope of his prohibition more 
precise by the words carnium vero quadrupedum, thus forbidding the 
ilesh of four-footed animals. Does the phrase exclude other sorts of 
flesh, so that fowls would be permitted ? However strange it may 
appear to us, it would seem to be incontestable that, in St. Benedict s 
time and for centuries afterwards, birds were considered by many 
we do not say by all 1 as fare compatible with abstinence. You could 
deny yourself such flesh meat for mortification, but it was recognized 
to be flesh of an inferior quality; though it might be more delicate and 
more agreeable to the taste than the flesh of quadrupeds, it was less 
nourishing and less apt to stimulate the passions. And did not Genesis 
say that the birds and fishes were created on the same day and both 
alike taken from the waters ? Why not treat waterfowl as fish, for they 
live on them and taste like them ? Whatever be the value of the reasons 
formerly alleged in justification of the practice of treating bipeds as 
abstinence-fare, it was a custom, and everyone knows that moral theo 
logians still in our own days allow certain waterfowl on abstinence days. 
They would, however, surprise us on a monastic table; and for us the 
question has been practically decided. 2 

1 S. CJESARIUS expressly forbids birds, except for the sick: Reg. ad mon., xxiv.; Reg. 
ad virg., Recapitulation xvii. 

2 The history of this matter is well summarized in the Commentary of CALMET. 
Read also: HERRGOTT, Fetus disciplina monastica, Praef., pp. xii-xxxii. D. GRicoiRE 
BERTHELET, Traitf historique et moral de V abstinence de la viande et des revolutions 
qu elle a cues depuis le commencement du monde jusqu d present, etc. (Rouen, 1731), 
P. III., chapters i.-ii. D. MGE maintained that St. Benedict forbade the flesh of birds. 



" Everyone hath his proper gift 
from God, one thus, another thus." 
And therefore it is with some scruple 
that we determine the measure of other 
men s living. Yet, making due allow 
ance for the weakness of some, we think 
that a hemina of wine a day is sufficient 
for each. 

DE MENSURA POTUS. Unusquisque 
proprium babet donum ex Deo: alius sic, 
alius vero sic. Et ideo cum aliqua 
scrupulositate a nobis mensura victus 
aliorum constituitur. Tamen infirmo- 
rum contuentes imbecillitatem, credi- 
mus heminam vini per singulos sufficere 
per diem. 

THE whole of this chapter is a striking illustration of that fatherly 
discretion which we have so often remarked; the care with which 
the most ordinary details of our life are regulated is obvious and 
touching. First we have a formal recognition of the differences 
between us in body, in soul, and in grace: " Everyone hath his proper 
gift from God, one thus, another thus " (i Cor. vii. 7). And because 
of this individual variety our Holy Father confesses that it is only with 
some misgiving and timidity that he ventures to determine matters which 
concern the lives of others. An absolutely invariable and rigid measure 
a bed of Procrustes to which both great and small must needs adapt 
themselves is out of the question. Nor should a man take himself 
as the standard to which all must conform. What, then, shall be our 
fixed point ? We shall consider the weakness of the small and feeble : 
of those who are little ones as regards physical strength, as well as of 
those who are not rich in moral vigour. Considering all these cases, 
we think, says St. Benedict, that a hemina of wine a day is sufficient for 
each monk. The Roman hemina was almost a quarter of a litre (nearly 
a half-pint) . l But we should remember what was said in the last chapter. 

Quibus autem donat Deus toleran- But let those to whom God gives 

tiam abstinentiae, propriam se habi- the gift of abstinence know that they 
turos mercedem sciant. Quod si aut shall receive their proper reward. If 
loci necessitas, vel labor, aut ardor either the situation of the place, the 
sestatis amplius poposcerit, in arbitrio work, or the heat of summer require 
prioris consistat, considerans in omni- more, let it be in the power of the 
bus ne subrepat satietas aut ebrietas. superior to grant it, care being taken 

in all things that surfeit or drunken 
ness creep not in. 

After laying down the reasonable mean allowance, the Rule, in its 
care for the spirit of mortification, for obedience, and for considerateness, 
provides for the principal cases that may occur. A monk may think 
himself able to do without wine, whether entirely or in part; God has 
given him vigorous health and inspired a secret desire for this abstinence. 

1 DAREMBERG et SAGLIO, Dictionn. des antiquites grecques et romaines, art. Hemina. 
[The Roman sextarius is generally equated with the English pint (more accurate! 
= -96 of a pint). The bemina was half of the sextarius.] 

276 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Let him ask permission, as required in Chapter XLIX., and, if he obtain 
it, give up wine. He will gain merit both for his generosity and for his 

But the allowance of wine may be too small. The climate may be 
rigorous, there may be extraordinary work, or else it is the height of 
summer and the heat is extreme. Such circumstances seem to call for 
a little more. The superior may grant it, but he should take great care 
that none insensibly reach drunkenness or even a state of surfeit which 
approximates thereto. Commentators give details of the wine allowed 
at the end of meals or outside mealtimes. At Cluny, besides the regular 
amount of wine served at the meal (the " justice," as it was called), 
there was sometimes given also a " charity " of wine, or the pigmentum, 
a compound of wine, honey, cinnamon, and cloves. 

Licet legamus vinum omnino Although we read that wine is by 

monachorum non esse; sed quia nostris no means a drink for monks, yet, since 

temporibus id monachis persuader! non in our days they cannot be persuaded 

potest, saltern vel hoc consentiamus, of this, let us at least agree not to 

ut non usque ad satietatem bibamus, drink to satiety, but sparingly : because 

sed parcius : quia vinum apostatare facit " wine maketh even the wise to fall 

etiam sapientes. away." 

St. Benedict seems to be a little ashamed of his leniency and to 
remember regretfully the heroism of the Fathers of the East. " We 
read," he says, " that wine is by no means the drink of monks." The 
passage occurs, word for word, in the collected Verba Seniorum. 1 It is 
said also in the Life of St. Antony that neither he nor other fervent 
ascetics used flesh meat or wine. 2 This usage was, however, not general : 
the Lausiac History, for example, shows that the monks of Nitria drank 
wine; 3 so too did the monks of St. Caesarius. In our days, St. Benedict 
continues, it is impossible to convince monks that the axiom of the 
ancients is true. Therefore they shall drink wine, since they must, but 
they shall at least agree not to drink to satiety, 4 for " wine maketh even 
the wise to fall away " (Ecclus. xix. 2). At Monte Cassino, as at 
Vicovaro, 6 St. Benedict drank wine. He might easily have astonished all 
by his mortifications he was an expert and might have lived as he did at 
Subiaco. But, when he became father of a religious family, he put him 
self into harmony with the dispositions and lawful usages of his monks. 

Ubi autem loci necessitas exposcit, But where the place is such that 
ut nee suprascripta mensura inveniri not even the aforesaid measure can be 
possit, sed multo minus, aut ex supplied, but much less, or none at 

1 Narraverunt quidam abbati Pastori de quodam monacbo qui non bibebat vinum, et dixit 
eis: Quia vinum monacborum omnino non est (Verba Seniorum: Vita Patrum, V., iv., 31. 
ROSWEYD, p. 570). 

2 S. ATHANASII, Vita S. Antonii, c. vii. P.G., XXVI., 853. Cf. S. AUG., De moribus 
cedes, cathol, 1. 1., c. xxxi. P.L., XXXII., 1339. S. HIERON., Ep. LIL, 1 1 ; Ep. XXII., 
35. P.L., XXII., 536-537; # ., 420. 

3 C. vii. (ROSWEYD, p. 713). 

4 Ut non usque ad satietatem persistamus in edendo (S. BASIL., Reg. contr,, ix.). 
6 S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. iii. 

Of the Measure of Drink 277 

toto nihil, benedicant Deum qui ibi all, let those who dwell there bless God 

habitant, et non murmurent. Hoc and not murmur. This above all do 

autem omnino admonentes, ut absquc we admonish, that they be without 

murmurationibus sint. murmuring. 

Therefore the hemina shall be the standard, a mean between total 
abstinence and excess. But we must provide for the case when even 
this limited measure cannot be got. The monastery may be poor, the 
country may produce no wine, with the result that much less may be 
procurable or even none at all. In that case the monks must bless God, 
from whom are both wine and lack of wine, and face this small hardship 
bravely. It will not kill them. We are like soldiers: " Everyone that 
striveth for the mastery refraineth himself from all things. And they 
indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown : but we an incorrup 
tible crown" (i Cor. ix. 25). We should never murmur or grow sad 
on account of such matters. Our Holy Father reiterates the advice, 
warning monks who are deprived of their portion of wine to abstain 
also from murmuring. 





FRATRES. A sancto Pascha usque ad 
Pentecosten ad sextam reficiant fratres, 
et ad seram cenent. 

From the holy feast of Easter until 
Whitsuntide let the brethren dine at 
the sixth hour and sup in the evening. 

ST. BENEDICT divides the year into four parts as regards the 
times of meals. From Easter till Whitsuntide there is no fast, 
in accordance with the ancient discipline of the Church. It is 
certain also, though St. Benedict says nothing on the point, that 
Sundays were not fast-days. There were two meals, one in the middle 
of the day, at the sixth hour, and the other in the evening before sunset, 
at an hour which would naturally vary according to the season. In 
Greek and Roman customs the midday meal was a summary affair; 
for the monks it was the chief meal of the day. 

A Pentecoste autem, tota aestate, si 
labores agrorum non habent monachi, 
aut nimietas asstatis non perturbat, 
quarta et sexta feria jejunent usque ad 
nonam : reliquis vero diebus ad sextam 
prandeant. Quae prandii sexta, si 
opera in agris habuerint, aut aestatis 
fervor nimius fuerit, continuanda erit, 
et in Abbatis sit providentia. Et sic 
omnia temperet atque disponat, qua- 
liter et animae salventur, et quod faci- 
unt fratres, absque ulla murmuratione 

But from Whitsuntide, throughout 
the summer, if the monks have not 
to work in the fields, nor are harassed 
by excessive heat, let them fast on 
Wednesdays and Fridays until the 
ninth hour, but on other days dine 
at the sixth. Should they have field 
labour, or should the heat of the sum 
mer be very great, let dinner at the 
sixth hour be the rule, at the discre 
tion of the Abbot. Let him likewise 
so temper and arrange all things that 
souls may be saved and that the 
brethren may fulfil their tasks 
without any murmuring. 

From Whitsuntide throughout the summer, the Easter regime holds 
good, except that Wednesdays and Fridays are to be fast-days. These 
same days were days of penance for all Christians in the early centuries. 1 
But St. Benedict differentiates these fast-days from the fast of Lent, 
putting the single meal at the ninth hour that is, towards three o clock 
in the afternoon. In some places the ninth hour was the time for 
breaking fast, not only at this season but also in Lent. 2 On other days, 
says St. Benedict, dinner shall be at the sixth hour. Because he does not 
speak of supper, and because some ancient documents such as the Rule 
of St. Fructuosus and the Rule of the Master exclude it expressly, some 

1 Cf. S. EPIPH., Adv. Heereses, 1. III., t. ii.: Expositio fidei, xxii. P.G., XLIL, 

2 Cf. SOCRAT., Hist, eccks., 1. V., c. xxii. P.G., LXVII., 625-646. CASS., Conlat., 
II., xxvi.j XXL, xxiii. 

At what Hours the Brethren are to take their Meals 279 

commentators doubt whether they had both -prandium and cena at Monte 
Casino in summer. 1 But it is the custom of the whole Order to grant 
two meals on days which are not fast-days. 

Our Holy Father allows an alleviation of the summer regime in the 
case of heavier toil or excessive heat. Hours were longer in this season, 
and it might often be a severe trial to wait till the ninth hour for a meal. 
" Let dinner at the sixth hour be the rule"; so that throughout the 
week, even on Wednesdays and Fridays, dinner shall be at that time. 
Probably there was also supper in the evening, so that the fast was com 
pletely dropped. It is left to the fatherly wisdom and foresight of the 
Abbot to determine when this was suitable. St. Benedict adds that 
he must also so contrive and arrange all things that souls may be saved, 
and the work of the brethren be fulfilled without murmuring. Here, 
as always, we find care for measure and moderation, fear of murmuring 
and complaint, though this be entirely secret. Better to dispense with 
the fast than to expose the brethren to discouragement or distress. 

Ab Idibus autem Septembris, usque From the Ides of September until 

ad caput Quadragesimae, ad nonam the beginning of Lent let the brethren 
semper reficiant fratres. always dine at the ninth hour. 

The third period, which we know as the monastic Lent, extends 
from after the Ides of September, when the Calends of October begin 
that is, from September 14 until the ecclesiastical Lent. In this 
period dinner was at the ninth hour. There is nothing to show that 
there was a collation on fast-days. But we should remember that the 
quantity of food was the same at all times. On fast-days that was 
served at one meal which was else served at two, the difference being 
that the hour of this single repast was more or less retarded. 

In Quadragesima vero usque ad During Lent, however, until Easter 

Pascha, ad Vesperam reficiant. Ipsa let them dine in the evening. But let 
tamen Vespera sic agatur, ut lumine this evening meal be so arranged that 
lucerne non indigeant reficientes, sed they shall not need lamps while eating 
luce adhuc diei omnia consummentur. and that all things may be finished 
Sed et omni tempore, sive cenae, sive while thete is yet daylight. Indeed, 
refectionis hora sic temperetur, ut cum at all times of the year, let the hour, 
luce fiant omnia. whether for dinner or supper be so 

arranged that everything be done by 

From the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday or Quadragesima 
Sunday) 2 until Easter there shall be one meal and that at the hour of 
Vespers, after the Office. This was for many centuries the most common 
practice of the clergy and the faithful. 

i ST. JEROME, in his preface to the Rule of St. Pacbomius writes: (5) Bis in bebdomada, 
quarta et sexta Sabbati ab omnibus jejunatur, excepto tempore Pascb* et Pentecostes. AUu 
diebus comedunt qui volunt post meridiem; et in cena simpler mensa pomtur, propter 
laborantes, senes, et pueros, cestusque gravissimos. Sunt qut secundo parum cornedunt 
alii qui plandii, \i-ve cena uno tantum cibo contenti sunt. Cf. LADEUZE, &M* sur le ceno- 
bitisme pakbomien, pp. 298-299. .. 

3 Cf. Dictionn. d archtol. cbrtt. et de liturg., art. Caput Jejunn, 

280 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Our Holy Father wished the Lenten meal to be taken before sunset, 
a forestalling of the time which would be some relief to the brethren. 
The hour of Vespers shall be fixed so as to allow the meal to be finished 
in daylight without any need of a lamp. The reader will not require a 
light, and the brethren, moreover, will be less tempted to distractions 
during the meal. Conversation would have been easy in a badly 
lighted refectory. St. Benedict makes a general rule of this. Through 
out the year the hour of supper, or the hour of the single meal, shall be 
so arranged that all is fulfilled by daylight. It may be objected that 
this would in winter put dinner very near supper. Calmet replies 
to this: " (i) that St. Benedict was speaking of Italy where he wrote 
and where the days of winter are longer than in France, Germany, or 
the North. (2) That it is by no means certain that he granted supper 
to his monks from the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross till Easter, 
on days when dinner was at the sixth hour any more than on days when 
it was at the ninth. (3) But supposing that he did grant it, it was more 
in the nature of a light lunch than of a supper." 


EF us recall the division of the Rule suggested in the first chapter. 
The central portion, from the twenty-first to the fifty-seventh 
chapters inclusively, concerns legislation and the internal order 
of the monastery. It is subdivided into three parts viz., 
XXI. -XXX., dealing with the deans and their duties and the code of 
punishments ; XXXI.-XLI., dealing with the cellarer and so with all that 
is connected with his office in a more or less immediate way. We now 
come to the subject of regularity and observance. It is not hard to see 
how this chapter is connected with the previous one and based on it. 

UT POST COMPLETORIUM NEMO LO- Monks should study silence always, 

QUATUR. Omni tempore silentio de- but especially during the hours of the 
bent studere monachi, maxime tamen night; and this shall hold of all times, 
nocturnis horis, et ideo omni tempore, whether fast-days or not. 
sive jejunii, sive prandii. 

St. Benedict takes silence first, as though to remind us that it is 
the most important item in monastic observance. Superiors speak 
repeatedly of the observance of silence, and we are inclined to regard 
it as a vague commonplace, a subject taken up when there is nothing else 
to say. Yet they only imitate our Holy Father. Without repeating 
the doctrinal and practical reflections made in the sixth chapter, we may 
well observe again that silence, like poverty and mortification, has only 
a relative value. Silence is not perfection, absolute silence is not sanctity. 
There are natures which from timidity, or a deep-seated tranquillity, 
dislike self-expression. Silence is, then, a matter of temperament and 
no virtue. For its value consists in a voluntary and deliberate relation 
to perfection and God. Silence is an aid to prayer, the condition and 
effect of interior recollection, the guardian and sign of charity. 

Recollection is so bound up with the goal of the monastic life that 
St. Benedict writes with insistence and some imperiousness. He does 
not merely invite. Monks ought, he says, at all times without excep 
tion, and even when they are speaking, to study and love silence. 
Omni tempore silentio debent studere monacbi. Those words give us the 
general rule, to be modified in its application according to times, places, 
and subjects of conversation. St. Benedict, as we have remarked 
elsewhere, nowhere prescribes the absolute suppression of speech. 
He recognizes degrees of silence; the very diversity of these degrees 
and the special condemnation sometimes pronounced on certain sorts 
of conversation all these detailed measures of prevention would be out 
of place in a house where there was never any talking. Our Holy 
Father here gives the night silence a privileged place. 1 Religious orders 
i Some testimonies in favour of the night silence occur previously to St. Benedict: 
Nemo alteri loquatur in tenebris, says the Rule of ST. PACHOMIUS (xciv.). Finitts tgitur 
psalmis et cotidiana congregation, sicut superius mcmorammus, absoluta, nullus eor\ 
#4 modicum subsistere aut sermocinari audet cum altero (CASS., Inst., II., xv.J. 


282 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

have all adopted from him a measure which is justified on many grounds. 
In the first place it was in the interest of good order, when all the monks 
slept in the same dormitory, and the vigilance of the Abbot and deans 
was as a matter of fact somewhat relaxed. It is further a matter of 
mortification. For while all is silence and recollection, our will readily 
submits itself to what external things require, and we put ourselves 
simply in unison with nature. When all noise is stilled, imagination 
becomes less active, thoughtfulness and prayer more easy. In the 
secret places of our souls there is produced an effect like that which 
resulted from the coming of the Angel of deliverance, described in the 
Book of Wisdom and applied by the Church to the coming of 
our Lord: " While all things were in quiet silence and the night was 
in the midst of her course, thy almighty word leapt down from heaven 
from thy royal throne . . ." (Wisdom xviii. 14-15). 

Besides the general counsel of silence, three things are dealt with in 
this chapter viz., reading or spiritual conferences, Compline, and the 
night silence. The end of the first sentence presents a difficulty. The 
punctuation we have adopted 1 differs from that of the editions of 
Schmidt and WolfBin, which put a full stop after the word horis and a 
colon after the words sive prandii. With either punctuation the clause 
et ideo etc., is both the conclusion of the general precept which precedes 
and an introduction to the details that follow. The sense would seem to 
be: Monks should practise silence at all times, but especially at night. 
So at all times, whether fast-days or not, things should be done as follows. 
Then in a long digression St. Benedict indicates how the monks are to 
prepare for the night silence and when it is to begin, whether the day 
be one on which there are two meals or only one. He is thinking in the 
latter case of the fast-days of the Rule and does not explicitly consider 
the fast-days of the Church, a thing which we shall explain. After this 
digression, with the words Et exeuntes a Completorio, we come back to 
the topic of the night silence. 

A third system of punctuation, of fairly wide acceptance, makes 
the words Et ideo begin a new sentence and puts a simple comma before 
si tempus fuerit prandii; but this reading raises the following difficulty. 
If we understand by fast-days the fasts of the Rule, as well as those of 
the Church, it is not accurate to say in general that as soon as supper is 
ended there follows spiritual reading; for on the fast-days of the Rule 
there was most probably no supper, but only the one repast at the ninth 
hour. If we take the words to refer to the fast of Lent, the statement 
is accurate; but then the two alternatives " fast-days or not " do not 
exhaust the meaning of the words " at all times," since the fast-days of 
the Rule are excluded. With our punctuation we may very well take 
the words " fast-days " to mean all such days of whatever sort. 

1 Followed by D. Gu^ranger in his French translation of the Rule. 

2 Omni tempore seems here to mean: all the year, every day, although at the begin 
ning of the chapter we gave it a wider meaning: at every time, in all circumstances, 

That no one may Speak after Compline 283 

Si tempus fuerit prandii, mox ut If it be not a fast-day, as soon as 

surrexerint a cena, sedeant omnes in they shall have risen from supper let 
unum, et legat unus Collationes, vel all sit down together, and let one read 
Vitas Patrum, aut certe aliquid quod the Conferences or Lives of the Fathers, 
aedificet audientes; non autem Hepta- or at least something else which may 
teucum, aut Regum: quia infirmis in- edify the hearers; but not the Hepta- 
tellectibus non erit utile ilia hora hanc teuch, nor the Books of Kings: for it 
Scripturam audire; aliis vero horis will not profit those of weak under- 
legantur. standing to hear those parts of Scrip 

ture at that hour; let them be read 
at other times. 

On days when there are two meals, as soon as supper is ended, the 
brethren shall rise, assemble, and sit together in one place, and one of 
them begin the reading. St. Benedict does not say where this took 
place, and the custom of the Order has been very various. Most often 
reading and Compline took place in the chapter-house or in the cloister, 
sometimes in the oratory, or even in the refectory. 1 Nowadays all is 
done in the oratory. Besides the chief purpose of edifying the monks, 
preparing them for the night, and leaving their minds full of spiritual 
thoughts, our Holy Father had another intention in instituting this 
reading. It was a practical one, and is revealed in the last words of the 
succeeding sentence. For the length of the reading is calculated so 
that all the monks may be able to assemble for a last conventual prayer. 
The kitchen servers and the reader, who have their meal at second table, 
the infirmarians, guestmasters, and all occupied in any special duty, will 
thus have the means of rejoining their brethren. If need be they must 
hurry somewhat: " so that during the reading all may come together 
(concurrentibus, running together), even such as may be occupied in 
some work enjoined them." 

St. Benedict indicates the substance of this reading viz., the 
Collationes or Conferences (of Cassian), the Lives of the Fathers^ or at 
least some book capable of edifying the hearers. Some parts of Scripture 
with approved patristic commentaries might be read. But the Rule 
excludes the Heptateuch (i.e., the Pentateuch plus the Books of Joshua 
and Judges) and the Books of Kings (probably including the Book of 
Ruth). 2 These being historical narratives might disturb some imagina 
tions, and in any case were not quite adapted to the restful purpose of 
this evening reading. Or else St. Benedict wished to spare his monks, 
among whom were children and boys, some narratives quite Oriental 
in their freedom. " It will not profit those of weak understanding to 
hear those parts of Scripture at that hour, but they shall be read at other 
times." The whole Bible is from God. It was not written for un 
believers. St. Benedict s intention, therefore, is not to make an^expur- 
gated edition of the Sacred Books, for the use of those who might be 
tempted to explain them in the light of their evil experiences, but 
merely to take precautions to ensure us a quiet night and quiet awakening. 

1 C/. MARTENE, De ant. monacb. rit., 1. I., c. xi. VVVT \/ 

2 Cf. S. AUG., De doctrina Christiana, 1. II., c. viu. P>L., XXX1V-, 40- 

284 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Si autem jejunii dies fuerit, dicta If it be a fast-day, then a short time 

Vespera, parvo intervallo, mox acce- after Vespers let them assemble for 

dant ad lectionem, ut diximus, et lectis the reading, as we have said; four or 

quatuor aut,quinque foliis, vel quan- five pages being read, or as much as 

turn hora permittit, omnibus in unum time allows, so that during the delay 

concurrentibus 1 per hanc moram lee- provided by this reading all may come 

tionis; si quis forte in assignato sibi together, even such as may be occupied 

commisso fuerit occupatus, occurrat. 2 in some work enjoined them. 

This probably refers to the monastic fasts, two days a week from 
Pentecost to September 14, and every day from then to Lent. On 
these days dinner was at the ninth hour. Vespers followed at its 
proper time, and then, after a brief interval, all assembled for the reading 
as previously explained. The kitchen servers would be free long before, 
but other brethren might be occupied in various tasks, whether in the 
monastery or its surroundings. They must hasten to join the community 
and arrive, at latest, towards the end of the reading. It would appear 
that it hardly lasted more than a half-hour, sufficient for the reading of 
four or five pages of manuscript. But St. Benedict does not wish to 
fix it too precisely, adding that it should last as long as time allows. On 
days when there had been supper, or when that meal was taken late, 
in summer for instance, or when work was heavier, the Abbot might 
shorten the reading. Nowadays we do not exceed ten minutes; but we 
have reading or a spiritual conference before the evening meal. 

St. Benedict has nothing special to say about Lent or other ecclesi 
astical fasts, since, in what regards reading and Compline, all would be 
the same as on days when there were two meals. The reading would 
follow immediately after the single evening meal. 

Omnes ergo in unum positi com- When all, therefore, are gathered 

pleant; et exeuntes a Completorio together let them say Compline; and 

nulla sit licentia denuo cuiquam loqui when they come out from Compline 

aliquid. Quod si inventus fuerit quis- no one shall be allowed to speak further 

quam praevaricari hanc taciturnitatis to anyone. If anyone be found to 

regulam, graviori vindictae subjaceat; evade this rule of silence, let him be 

excepto si necessitas hospitum super- punished severely; unless the presence 

venerit, aut forte Abbas alicui aliquid of guests should make it necessary, or 

jusserit. Quod tamen et ipsum cum the Abbot should chance to give some 

summa gravitate et moderatione order. But even this must be done 

honestissime fiat. becomingly, with the greatest gravity 

and moderation. 

Note again the importance which St. Benedict attaches to the 
presence of all at Compline. All tasks shall cease and all the brethren 
unite at this last hour of the day : omnes in unum positi compleant. Then 
shall Compline be said; its structure our Holy Father has given else 
where (Chapters XVI I. -XVI 1 1.). 

1 Convenientibus in unumfratribus ad concinendos psalmos, quos quieturi ex more decan- 
tant (CASS., Inst., IV., xix.). 

8 Occurrat belongs only to the " received text "; and this whole passage is variously 
punctuated by editors. 

That no one may Speak ajter Compline 285 

On coming out from this hour, no one shall be free to say anything 
whatever to any of his brethren: nulla sit licentia denuo cuiquam loqui 
aliquid. Whosoever is convicted of a violation of this rule shall be 
subjected to very severe punishment. St. Benedict does not say what 
this was ; but, in ancient times, it sometimes took the form of excommuni 
cation. Custom is still exacting in this matter and good monks will 
endeavour to keep the night silence in all its integrity. 

Nevertheless, all rules remain subordinate to discretion and even the 
gravest precepts have no other aim except charity. Our Holy Father 
enumerates briefly the chief circumstances when one must overlook the 
rule viz., if guests have to be attended to, if the Abbot has orders to 
give. One may imagine other cases, such as fire, the sickness of a brother, 
robbery; 1 any of which reasons would be more than enough to justify 
the breaking of the night silence. But, as St. Benedict remarks, though 
silence gives way before the higher law of charity, it never loses all its 
rights. We should only say what is necessary, with great gravity, in 
few words, and with all possible moderation and restraint. 

As we said in commenting on the twenty-second chapter, the Rule 
does not tell us when the night silence ended, and it may have ended at 
rising. From the time of St. Benedict of Aniane it lasted in certain 
monasteries until Prime and the meeting of the brethren in the chapter 
house. With us it ceases with the versicle Pretiosa at Prime. 

1 D. MENARD notes that the ancient monks often observed the night silence when 
away from the monastery and on a journey; he tells how St. Stephen of Obazine, and, 
on another occasion, two monks of Cluny, when attacked by robbers or barbarians, kept 
an imperturbable silence. 



WE now start a series of four chapters which may be regarded 
as the complement of the monastic penal legislation (in 
XXIII.-XXX.). They are more in place here than earlier. 
For our Holy Father treats in fact of observance, regu 
larity, and punctuality; these are the chief subjects of these chapters. 
They contain punishments for small breaches of observance and for 
purely material faults. We are told how to expiate all the little injuries 
we may do to the peace and good order of the community, slight and 
even involuntary irreverences towards God and sacred things. And 
since public penances most often have the oratory or refectory for their 
scene and occasion, it was natural not to speak of them until meals had 
been dealt with. Finally, apropos of satisfactions, St. Benedict describes 
the manner of them for brethren excommunicated both from oratory 
and table or from table alone (Chapter XLIV.). 

At the hour of Divine Office, as 
soon as the signal is heard, let each one 
lay aside whatever he may be engaged 
on and hasten to it with all speed, and 
yet with seriousness, so that no occasion 
be given for levity. Let nothing be 
put before the Work of God. 



divini Officii, mox ut auditum fuerit 
signum, relictis omnibus quaelibet 
fuerint in manibus, summa cum f estina- 
tione curratur: cum gravitate tamen, 
ut non scurrilitas inveniat fomitem. 
Ergo nihil open Dei praeponatur. 

In oratory and refectory the whole community is united and there 
the external bond of conventual life is realized. Therefore should 
punctuality be especially in evidence at these duties. St. Benedict 
deals first with the Divine Office, giving the precept, the mode of its 
fulfilment, and finally the motive. As soon as the signal for Office is 
heard, each one should go with all speed, leaving unfinished any other 
work, whatever hand or brain has been occupied with. 1 It is obvious, 
and St. Benedict thought it unnecessary to remark, that one would not 
abandon thus abruptly whatever charity or good sense would bid him 

1 Itaque considentes intra cubilia sua et operi ac meditationi studiumpariter inpendentes^ 
cum sonitum pulsantis ostium ac diversorum cellulas percutientis audierint ad orationem 
scilicet eos seu ad opus aliquod invitantis, certatim e suis cubilibus unusquisque prorumpit^ 
ita ut is, qui opus scriptoris exercet, quam repertusfuerit inchoasse litter am finire non audeat, 
sed in eodem puncto, quo ad aures ejus sonitus pulsantis advenerit, summa velocitate prosiliens 
ne tantum quidem morce interponat^ quantum ccepti apicis consummet effigiem, sed tnperfectas 
liner a lineas derelinquens non tarn operis conpendia lucrare sectetur quam obedientite 
virtutem exsequi toto studio atque temulatione festinet. Quam non solum operi manuum seu 
lectioni vel silentio et quieti cellce, verum etiam cunctis virtutibus ita pr&ferunt) ut huic 
judicent omnia postponenda et universa dispendia subire contenti sint^ dummodo hoc bonutn 
in nullo violasse videantur (CASS., /$*., IV., xii.). 


Those <who come Late to Work of God, or to Table 287 

keep or continue for a moment. Extreme haste should also be tempered 
with gravity, for we are not bidden to run in the literal sense of the word. 
Dissipation should not be caused and justified by a gross interpretation 
of the Rule, and that in duties which we should approach with great 

The supernatural zeal with which St. Benedict would have us fulfil 
all the behests of obedience is ever justified, for it is God who gives the 
orders; but this is especially true when the work is the Work of God 
par excellence, that essential and unique work towards which are ordained 
all God s operations ad extra. Nothing, says St. Benedict, should be 
put before the Work of God. Which principle, borrowed by him from 
monastic tradition, 1 has remained the proud motto of all his children. 
Let us never be slow to appear in the audience chamber of God; there 
is the one interest of life. Moreover, regularity is the school of abnega 
tion. Let us be forgiven for repeating that it is the truest mortification, 
sounding the very depths of our wills, though it remain unnoticed by 
men. Monastic punctuality is not mechanical or constrained. It has 
its source in deep conviction, in a glad spontaneity of faith and love. 
Our souls are identified with the law, and thus arises an orthodox form 
of that immanence of which men now speak so much. 

Quod si quis ad nocturnas Vigilias Should anyone come to the Night 
post " Gloriam " Psalmi nonagesimi Office after the Gloria of the ninety- 
quart! (quern propter hoc omnino pro- fourth psalm (which for this reason 
trahendo et morose volumus dici) we wish to be said very slowly and 
occurrerit, non stet in ordine suo in protractedly), let him not stand in his 
choro, sed ultimus omnium stet, aut in order in the choir, but last of all, or in 
loco quern talibus negligentibus seor- the place set apart by the Abbot for 
sum constituent Abbas, ut videatur ab such negligent ones, so that he may 
ipso vel ab omnibus, usque dum com- be seen by him and by all, until, the 
pleto opere Dei, publica satisfactione Work of God being ended, he do 
paeniteat. Ideo autem eos in ultimo penance by public satisfaction. The 
aut seorsum judicavimus debere stare, reason why we have judged it fitting 
ut visi ab omnibus, vel pro ipsa vere- for them to stand in the last place or 
cundia sua emendentur. Nam si foras apart, is that, being seen by all, they 
oratorium remaneant, erit forte talis may amend for very shame. For if 
qui se aut recollocet et dormiat, aut they were to remain outside the ora- 
certe sedeat foris, vel fabulis vacet, et tory, there might be one who would 
detur occasio maligno; sed ingrediatur return to his bed and sleep, or else sit 
intro, ut nee totum perdat, et de reli- outside and give himself to idle tales, 
quo emendetur. and so give occasion to the Evil One. 

Let him, therefore, enter, that he may 
not lose the whole, and may amend for 
the future. 

The common purpose of the penances which our Holy Father now 
begins to appoint is undoubtedly to repair the offence against God and 

1 Cursum monasterii super omnia diligas.- Ad horam vero orationis data signo qui non 
statim pr<gtermisso omni opere quod agit paratus fuerit, foras excludatur, ut erubescat; 
quia nihil orationi prteponendum est (S. MACAR., Reg., ix., xiv.). Orationi nihil preeponas 
tota die (S. PORCARII Monita: Revue Bfnfdictine, October, 1909, p. 478). 

288 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

the slight scandal given to the brethren ; but they have as well a remedial 
character, tending to wean us from all inclination to self-will or careless 
ness. Whoever arrives after the Gloria of the ninety-fourth psalm, in 
the Night Office, must not take his order in the choir. He has displayed 
too little zeal to deserve, though he be now ready, to join the common 
psalmody. The Invitatory had been chanted slowly and much drawn 
out with set purpose of considerateness. He shall take his place last 
of all, or else apart, in a special place appointed by the Abbot for such 
delinquents (talibus negligentibus). He will be seen there by the Abbot 
and his brethren and will feel a salutary shame. But this is not the whole 
of his penance; for when the Office is over, he shall make public satis 
faction, probably in the choir or at the doors of the church. 

So St. Benedict allows the late-comer into the oratory, but appoints 
him the last place or puts him in the pillory of the lazy. In this he 
departs from the custom of the monks of Palestine as he found it de 
scribed in Cassian. With them a monk, who did not arrive at the Night 
Office before the prayer which followed the second psalm, had to remain 
outside the oratory, taking part in the Office from a distance only, and 
when the brethren came out had to prostrate at the feet of all, asking 
their pardon. At Terce, Sext, and None he had to arrive before the end 
of the first psalm if he would escape the above penalty. 1 It may be 
that for the fervent Eastern of refined nature such temporary excom 
munication was a severe lesson. But St. Benedict knew that in the 
West of his day such a proceeding would have been dangerous for certain 
ruder natures. We have judged it fitting, he says, to relegate such 
careless ones to the last place, or to a place apart and conspicuous, so 
that, in default of high motives, their shame may produce amendment. 
But to allow a monk, even as a punishment, to remain outside the oratory 
would be to expose him to a thousand temptations. The lazy man 
would regard it as a positive encouragement, return to bed, and continue 
his slumbers, judging that excommunication certainly had its good points. 
Another might sit solitary outside; 2 or else indulge in gossip with other 
late-comers or with strangers. Now a monk without protection of 
prayer, or rule, or work, or the society of his brethren, would be a sure 
prize for the enemy. Our Holy Father puts it quite directly: " and so 
give occasion to the Evil One." The devil is always looking for oppor 
tunities; but as long as we are safeguarded by the helps of our conven 
tual life we may laugh at him. For we ourselves hold the key that 
opens and shuts our souls, and none enters but he to whom we grant 

1 CASS., Inst., III., vii. The Rule of ST. MACARIUS (xiv.) also excludes the late 
comer. This is the regulation of ST. PACHOMIUS: Quando ad collectam tuba clangor 
increpuerit per diem, qui ad unam orationem tardius venerit, super torts increpationis or dine 
corripietur, et stabit in loco convivii (penance in the refectory). Nocte vero, quoniam 
cor ports infirmitati plus aliquid conceditur, qui post tres or at tones venerit^ eodem et in collecta 
et in vescendo ordine corripietur (ix-x). ST EPHREM, Paraenesis xviii, wherein 
monks are exhorted to rise in haste for the " Work of the Lord," and to 
enter the oratory, even if Office has begun (inter S. EPHREM. opp. grac. lat., t. II., 
pp. 93~94)- 

2 We should read sedeat sibi forts. 

Those who come Late to Work of God, or to Table 289 

admittance. If the late-comer be admitted into the oratory, St. Bene 
dict adds, anxious to justify his innovation to the full, he does not lose 
the whole advantage of the Divine Office; and he is constrained to amend 
for the future; or: makes satisfaction for what he has omitted and for 
the negligence that he has shown. 

Diurnis autem Horis, qui ad opus At the Day Hours let him who 

Dei post Versum et " Gloriam " primi comes to the Work of God after the 

Psalmi qui post Versum dicitur, occur- Verse and the Gloria of the first psalm 

rerit, lege qua supra diximus, in ultimo which is said after the Verse stand in 

stet loco: nee praesumat sociari choro the last place, as ordered above; nor 

psallentium usque ad satisfactionem, let him presume to join the choir in 

nisi forte Abbas licentiam dederit per- their chanting until he have made 

missione sua; ita tamen, ut satisfaciat satisfaction, unless the Abbot allow 

reus ex hoc. him: yet even so let him make satis 
faction for his guilt. 

One who comes late for the Day Hours, arriving after the Gloria 
of the first psalm which follows the versicle Deus in adjutorium, must be 
punished as before. He must take the last place, or else (St. Benedict 
does not mention this explicitly) go to the place appointed for the 
negligent. Until he has made satisfaction he is not to be permitted 
to join his voice with the voices of the choir in their chanting. It may 
be asked whether late-comers were denied all share in the Office, or 
merely forbidden to chant, whether alone or in the " schola " (choro 
psallentium are St. Benedict s words), psalms, antiphons, or lessons, in the 
same way as this was forbidden to those excommunicated from the table 
(Chapter XXIV.) and those excommunicated from oratory and table 
before their complete reconciliation (Chapter XLIV.). 1 Did they do 
nothing but listen ? Did they recite what they could in a very low voice ? 
Did they take part in certain " responses," or in chanting which was 
performed by the whole choir? We cannot say. The words " that 
he may not lose the whole " would seem to indicate more than a purely 
passive role. Nor can we say, from the mere text of the Rule, whether 
this exclusion could be continued for many Offices, when the negligence 
was more grave, or was habitual, or when complete satisfaction was long 
coming. But St. Benedict tells us that the negligent monk could take 
his usual place and duty in choir by express invitation of the Abbot; 
as, for example, when he was in charge of a duty which without him would 
be unfulfilled or fulfilled imperfectly. It would not do to disorganize the 
common prayer for the sake of punishing one man s tardiness. However, 
even then, the guilty man must make public satisfaction after the 

It has been remarked that St. Benedict is more lenient with those 
who come late for Matins than with laggards at the Day Offices ; and the 
reason is not obscure. At the Night Office they have until after the 
Verse, psalm iii., and the Invitatory ; at the Day Hours they are punished 
if they come after the first psalm. But what does St. Benedict mean by 

1 See p. 148. 


290 Commentary on the Rule oj St. Benedict 

the Day Hours? Cassian, 1 in a passage which our Holy Father uses 
with modifications, describes the penances done by the Palestinian 
monks when they arrived late for the Night Offices (in nocturnis conven- 
ticulis), or else lor Terce, Sext, and None (in lertia^ Sexta vel Nona). 
Cassian says nothing of other Hours. Lauds could be included under 
the Night Office, Compline probably did not yet exist in those parts, 
and Prime was of quite recent institution. But what of Vespers? 
Was the rule of penance the same for this as for the Night Offices? 2 
Yet, whatever may have been Palestinian custom, we have no right 
to infer an exact agreement between the arrangements mentioned by 
Cassian and those of St. Benedict. If our Holy Father really intends 
to speak of Lauds and the succeeding Hours, we must recognize that all 
the Hours have the verse Deus in adjutorium, a fact not mentioned 
explicitly in his set treatment of the Office save for Prime, Terce, Sext, 
and None. 3 And we should allow that at Lauds laggards have till after 
the Gloria of the sixty-sixth psalm, which is purposely said slowly like 
the Invitatory, "that all may be in time for the fiftieth " (Chapter XIII.). 4 
Perhaps, finally, the fact that St. Benedict does not here mention the 
hymn, between the Deus in adjutorium and the first psalm, is a proof 
that he wishes to include in one precise formula the Day Offices which 
have the hymn before the psalmody (Prime, Terce, Sext, and None) 
and those other Offices where the hymn comes after (Lauds, Vespers, and 

Ad mensam autem qui ante Versum He who does not come to table 

non occurrerit, ut simul omnes dicant before the Verse, so that all may say it 

Versum et orent, et sub uno simul praying together and sit down to table 

omnes accedant ad mensam: qui per at the same time, must be corrected 

negligentiam suam aut vitium non once or twice if this be through negli- 

occurrerit, usque ad secundam vicem gence or fault. If after this he do not 

pro hoc corripiatur : si denuo non emen- amend, let him not be suffered to share 

daverit, non permittatur ad mensae in the common table, but be separated 

communis participationem, sed seques- from the company of all and eat alone, 

tratus a consortio omnium reficiat solus, his portion of wine being taken from 

sublata ei portione sua vini, usque him until he makes satisfaction and 

ad satisfactionem et emendationem. amends. He is to undergo the same 

Similiter autem patiatur, qui ad ilium punishment who is not present at the 

Versum non fuerit praesens, qui post Verse which is said after meals, 
cibum dicitur. 

St. Benedict now ensures the conventual character of meals. In 
the main it is not hard of realization, for there are decisive reasons 
urging all the monks to be present and that without great delay ; whereby 
we achieve a complete reunion. But if all are present for the meal 
they should likewise be present for the prayers before and after. There 

1 Inst.) III., vii. * See p. 171, note 3. 3 See pp. 158 and 177. 

4 Is it not precisely in allusion to Lauds and in order to prevent any confusion 
between psalm Ixvi. and psalm 1. that St. Benedict speaks specifically of the first psalm 
qui fost Vfrsunt jicitur f 

Those who come Late to Work of God ^ or to Table 291 

was, therefore, at that epoch and the custom is as old as Christianity 1 

a form of Blessing before meals and Grace after meals. St. Benedic 
alludes to both as the " Verse." 2 And he requires three things at th 
beginning of meals : that all should assemble before the Verse, that the 
should say it and pray together, and finally that all should sit down 
together (ut sub uno simul omnes accedant ad mensam). By this regula 
tion and the one concerning the end of the meal our Holy Father 
perhaps intends to exclude the custom followed by the monks of St. 
Pachomius, who went to the refectory as they wished and left when it 
suited them. 3 At any rate, it is plain that in St. Benedict s conception 
a monastery is a fraternal fellowship, closely knit together, wherein all 
follow the same horarium, wherein all are blessed and consecrated, and 
all works, even the most ordinary ones, are sanctified, by prayer. 

He who from carelessness or caprice does not arrive before the 
prayer shall first be corrected once or twice. So St. Benedict prudently 
makes a distinction between negligence in coming to the Divine Office 
and a late arrival at meals. The latter fault ig less serious. However, 
if two corrections do not cause amendment, the guilty one must thence 
forth be forbidden to share in the common table. 4 This is not the 
excommunication from meals provided in the twenty-fourth chapter, 
but a penalty analogous to that just decreed against the laggard at the 
Office. The refectory, like the choir, had a place allotted to the careless 
where they were to eat by themselves separated from the society of their 
brethren and deprived of their portion of wine. They had not to take 
their meals at second table or outside the refectory. 6 This is proved 
by St. Benedict s requirements before the laggards may recover their 
wine and their right place: they had to make satisfaction and amend; 
but it would be impossible to manifest their improvement in punctuality 
unless they were kept in the common refectory. Our Holy Father 
decides finally that the same punishment should be inflicted on the 
monk who goes out before Grace. 

1 To give a blessing before breaking bread is the familiar action of Our Lord 
(Luke xxiv. 30-35) and of the Apostles (Acts xxvii. 33-35). This blessing occurs in 
the Agape of the early Christians. Read on this subject chapters ix. and x. of the 
Didacbe, the interpretation of which has been fixed in a quite final manner by D. CAGIN 
(L Eucbaristia, part II., viii.). 

2 On the prayers at monastic meals cf. MNARD, Concordia Regularum, pp. 765-766. 
HJEFTEN, 1. X., tract, i., disq. vi. MARTENE, De antiq. monach. rit , 1. I., c. ix. 

3 Sunt qui secundo parum comedunt; alii qui prandii, sive cence uno tantum cibo contenti 
sunt. Nonnulli gustato paullulum pane egrediuntur. Omnes pariter comedunt. Qui ad 
mensam ire noluerit, in cellula sua panem tantum et aquam, ac salem accipit (S. HIERON., 
Praf. in Reg. S. Pacb., 5). But when the monks of ST. PACHOMIUS came to the refectory 
they had to come at a fixed hour, for we read in the same Rule: Si quis ad comedendum 
tardius venerit, excepto majoris imperio . . ., aget panitentiam, aut ad domum jejunus 
revertetur (xxxii.). 

4 Qua signo tacto tardius ad opus Dei, vel ad opera vencrit, increpationi, ut dignum est, 
subjacebit. Quod si secundo aut tertio admonita emendare nolucrit, a communione, vel a 
convivio separetur (S. C^SAR., Reg. ad virg. t x.). 

5 ST. BASIL condemns late-comers to wait for the next day s meal (Reg. contr., xcvn.); 
he distinguishes, however, between guilty and excusable late-coming. 

292 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

Nee quisquam prsesumat ante And let no one presume to take 

statutam horam, vel postea, quicquam any food or drink before or after the 

cibi vel potus percipere. Sed et si cui appointed time; but if something is 

offertur aliquid a priore, et accipere offered to anyone by the superior and 

renuerit, hora qua desideraverit, hoc he refuse it, and afterwards wishes to 

quod prius recusavit aut aliud omnino have what he had rejected or some 

non percipiat, usque ad emendationem other thing, let him get neither this 

congruam. nor anything else till he makes proper 


If negligent monks were free to eat and drink before or after the 
appointed hour, they would certainly have recompensed themselves 
for the loss of their wine and their penance at the common meal; and 
they would have had little zeal for amendment. But St. Benedict 
forbids eating or drinking, no matter how small a quantity, apart from 
the refectory and the conventual meals. 1 Moreover, it would have been 
unseemly for a monk to eat at any time or to drink when he had oppor 
tunity, seeking a little dessert in the vineyard or the orchard. Nor is it 
in the power of the cellarer, or of him whom we call the " depositary, " 
to consider the needs of each individual, to distribute kindly largesse, 
or to show a tender thoughtfulness for one or other of the brethren. 
Furthermore, in the refectory, you must get permission if you would 
exchange one dish for another which you think more suited to your 
stomach. And since the spirit of singularity and self-indulgence is very 
subtle and very hard to conquer, we should ever be on our guard, more 
especially as we advance in years, against seeking our ease and likes and 
preferences. 2 Finally, it may not be quite unnecessary to remark that, 
if the laws of our common life and of mortification forbid us giving 
ourselves anything whatever outside of mealtime, poverty also forbids 
us to offer a brother what we think we should deny ourselves. We are 
poorer than the poor themselves and cannot even dispose freely of our 
superfluity. To mix up some dish or other, without partaking of it, 
so as to show that we have touched it, and to transform it thus into 
something which we may give to others, would be to some degree a 
mistaking of true monastic poverty. 

St. Benedict forbids a monk to give or receive irregularly, but he 
recognizes the superior s right to grant a solace or some small addition, 
whether in the course of the common meal or outside it. And our 
Holy Father would have the monk accept with humility and courtesy 
what the Abbot s considerateness offers him. Not that he means to 
oblige the brethren to take indiscriminately and wholly any addition 
which they think excessive or harmful. He must accept graciously, 
but he may graciously excuse himself. For what St. Benedict wishes 
to banish is false austerity, ill-temper, and intractableness. A man 
may refuse haughtily and repenting soon come to ask for what he 

1 Ante quam vel post quam legitimam communemque refectionem summa caulione 
servatur, ne extra mensam quicquam cibi penitus ori suo quisquam indulgere prasumat) etc, 
(CASS., Inst.j IV., xviii.). 

9 Cf. S. BASIL., Reg. contr., xc. 

Those who come Late to Work of God, or to Table 293 

had refused. The superior, says St. Benedict, should then remember 
his incivility, and not only refuse what is asked, but also every sort of 
favour, perhaps even necessary things, until the brother begs pardon and 
repairs his fault suitably. 1 

1 The meaning we give to the words of St. Benedict is, it seems, almost the same as 
that of the passage in ST. BASIL which inspired them: Si quis iratus fuerit, nolens accipere 
aliquid eorum qua ad usum prcebentur ? Iste talis dignus est etiam ut si queer at non accipiat, 
usquequo probet is quipr&est; et cum viderit vitium animi curatttm, tune etiam quod corporis 
usibus neccssarium fuerit prabebit (Reg- contr. occvi.). See also the question which 
precedes this. 



ST. BENEDICT continues his enumeration of the means by which 
faults against observance are expiated, of the penances by which 
we regain favour. If small mistakes call for punishment and 
penance, more serious and very grave faults require such a fortiori. 
In outlining the ascending series of punishments deserved by these 
two last classes of faults our Holy Father (in Chapters XXIV. and XXV.) 
described the condition of those excommunicated " from oratory and 
table " and " from table." He now tells us how both may obtain 
pardon. To emerge from the full regular excommunication, a whole 
series of graduated and wise expiations had to be traversed, in which 
four stages may be distinguished. 1 


graviori culpa ab oratorio et a mensa 
excommunicatur, hora qua opus Dei 
in oratorio celebratur, ante fores ora- 
torii prostratus jaceat, nihil dicens; nisi 
tantum posito in terrain capite et pro- 
stratus, pronus omnium de oratorio ex- 
euntium pedibus se projiciat. Et hoc 
tamdiu faciat usque dum Abbas judi- 
caverit satisfactum esse. 

He who for graver offences is 
excommunicated from the oratory and 
the table must, at the hour when the 
Work of God is being performed in the 
oratory, lie prostrate before the doors 
of the oratory, saying naught; only 
let him, with his face on the ground 
and body prone, cast himself at the 
feet of all as they go forth from the 
oratory. And let him continue to do 
this until the Abbot judge that satis 
faction has been made. 

The excommunicated monk, who has submitted and consented 
to be reconciled with God and his brethren, is treated as were public 
penitents in the early centuries. At the hour when the Work of God 
is celebrated, at all Offices, he prostrates before the doors of the oratory, 
saying nothing. Possibly our Holy Father s intention was to keep 
him there during the whole of the Office, and the words nihil dicens 
are meant to forbid him taking any part in the liturgy. Many historical 
texts support this interpretation. 2 However, to stay thus at the door 
during the whole Office of the long winter nights would be a painful 
process, 3 especially if we take the words prostratus jaceat literally. 
Does it not seem that St. Benedict himself explains his meaning when 
he adds, immediately after nihil dicens, the clause beginning nisi tantum ? 
The excommunicated monk must be at the doors of the oratory while 

1 There is some verbal reminiscence of CASSIAN (Inst., II., xvi.; IV., xvi.) in this 

* See the Rule of ST. FRUCTUOSUS (xiv.), and the Rule of the Master (xiv.). M^NARD, 
Concordia Regularum, pp. 532-533. 

3 It is true that there was usually, before the church, a covered atrium; penitents 
and catechumens stayed there. 


How the Excommunicated make Satisfaction 295 

the brethren are going out; he must say nothing, but lying prostrate, 
with his face in the dust, cast himself at the feet of all, whether before 
each in turn or while the whole community defiles past him. The first 
remedy for every evil is humility, and humiliation is the means to obtain 
humility. Moral virtues are acquired by exercise, by the accumulation, 
and repetition of acts. The excommunicate must continue to act thus, 
says the Rule, until the Abbot judges that this first satisfaction is 
complete and sufficient. 

Qui dum jussus ab Abbate venerit, Then, when the Abbot bids him, 
provolvat se ipsius Abbatis pedibus, let him come and cast himself at the 
deinde omnium vestigiis fratrum, ut feet of the Abbot, and next at those 
orent pro eo. of all the brethren, that they may pray 

for him. 

This is the second stage. At the invitation of the Abbot the penitent 
comes and casts himself at his feet, and then at the feet of all the brethren 
begging their prayers, whether by word or merely by his suppliant 
attitude. The excommunication evidently will soon be removed and the 
guilty one restored to his place in the family. St. Benedict does not 
tell us in what place this second stage was enacted. 

Et tune, si jusserit Abbas, recipiatur And then, if the Abbot so order, 

in choro, vel in ordine, quo Abbas de- let him be received back into the choir, 

creverit: ita sane, ut Psalmum aut in such a place as he shall appoint: 

Lectionem vel aliud quid nonprsesumat yet so that he presume not to intone 

in oratorio imponere, nisi iterum Abbas psalm or lesson or anything else in the 

jubeat. oratory, unless the Abbot again com 
mand him. 

When the Abbot ordains it, the penitent is received back into the 
choir, but takes his rank as the Abbot judges fit, not necessarily that 
which he held before his fall. And in order to make him realize that 
his state is still only one of convalescence, he is forbidden to chant or 
to recite (probably by himself or in the " schola ") psalms, lessons, or 
other liturgical pieces of the same character. He will not have the right 
to raise his voice in the presence of God and his brethren until formal 
authorization by the Abbot. If St. Benedict is prudent in his use of 
punishments, he does not care for quick and wholesale amnesty, that 
facility of pardon which encourages a recrudescence of the same faults. 

Et omnibus Horis, dum completur Moreover, at every Hour, when the 

opus Dei, projiciat se in terram, in loco Work of God is ended, let him cast 
in quo stat, et sic satisfaciat, usque dum himself on the ground, in the place 
ei jubeat Abbas, ut quiescat ab hac where he stands, and so make satisfac- 
satisfactione. tion, until the Abbot bids him cease 

from this satisfaction. 

Although he has regained his place in the common prayer, the 
penitent monk still owes a last satisfaction. At the end of each Hour 
he must prostrate on the ground, in the same place as he holds in choir ; 
and he must repeat this satisfaction until the Abbot bids him cease and 

296 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

be at rest (quiescat}. We may note carefully that it is not said that the 
monk then recovers the place he held before his fault. Our Holy Father 
recognizes elsewhere that the Abbot has the right to degrade a man for 
well-founded reasons, certis ex causis (Chapter LXIIL). 

Qui vero pro levibus culpis excom- But those who for small faults are 
municatur tantum a mensa, in oratorio excommunicated only from the table 
satisfaciat usque ad jussionem Abbatis; must make satisfaction in the oratory 
et tamdiu hoc faciat, usque dum bene- so long as the Abbot shall command; 
dicat, et dicat: Sufficit. let them do so till he bless them and 

say: It is enough. 

The procedure was naturally less complex and more gentle when it 
was a matter only of the minor excommunication, called excommunica 
tion from the table because it operated chiefly in the refectory. In the 
choir, the excommunicated man was only deprived of the right to intone 
psalms and antiphons and recite lessons until he had made satisfaction, 
adds St. Benedict (Chapter XXIV.). Our Holy Father confines him 
self here to directing that this satisfaction should be made in the oratory 
and last as long as the Abbot thinks suitable, being repeated until he 
gives his blessing and says: It is enough. But in what did this satis 
faction consist ? It would seem that it was nothing else but the pros 
tration of which our Holy Father spoke in the preceding sentence. 
Since the Rule gives no precise directions we may interpret it by itself, 
from the passage which is nearest and most connected in sense. 

We cannot embark on the history of monastic custom with regard 
to the satisfaction performed by the excommunicated. Let us observe 
only that the text of the Rule has never been abrogated. It remains still 
and it may be put into force. And though occasions for the incurring 
or infliction of excommunication be much rarer than once they were, 
yet they are still possible. Given the occasion, it would be the strict 
duty of the Abbot to apply the penalties of the Rule, if he were forced 
thereto by obstinacy or by prolonged and formal contempt. 



TORIO. Si quis, dum pronuntiat Psal- 
mum, Responsorium, aut Antiphonam, 
vel Lectionem, fallitur: nisi cum satis- 
factione ibi coram omnibus humiliatus 
fuerit, majori vindictae subjaceat; 
quippe qui noluit humilitate corrigere, 
quod negligentia deliquit. Infantes 
vero pro tali culpa vapulent. 

If anyone while reciting a psalm, 
responsory, antiphon, or lesson, make 
a mistake, and do not make satisfaction, 
humbling himself there before all, 
let him be subjected to greater punish 
ment, as one who would not correct 
by humility what he did wrong through 
negligence. But children for such 
faults are to be whipped. 

FROM this point we are no longer concerned with grave irregulari 
ties but with purely formal mistakes, at the most with offences 
due to some negligence or inadvertence. The ancients teach us 
not to be too easygoing even in such small matters. 1 In the 
oratory, in particular, where all is sacred and where the work performed 
is of supreme importance, where routine, laziness, and sleepiness are ever 
to be feared, any mistake calls for immediate expiation and such as is 
suited to its gravity. If anyone, says the Rule, makes a mistake in recit 
ing a psalm, responsory, antiphon, or lesson, he owes satisfaction. The 
error may be a fault in pronunciation, by which we substitute one word 
for another or curtail a word, or else a fault in chanting, or the intoning 
of a wrong versicle; St. Benedict does not go into detail, but employs the 
general phrase: "while reciting." Nor does he sav what the satis 
faction was. But we may suppose with some probability that he meant 
a humiliation imposed on himself by the delinquent, by kneeling or 
prostrating in his place before the eyes of all. Such, with minor differ 
ences, are now and have always been, in the diverse branches of the 
Order, the ordinary choir penances. 

It is not necessary that our fault should have caused appreciable 
disturbance or discord, nor even that our neighbours should have 
noticed it. It is not a question of aesthetics, but of religious justice. 
Imperfection has appeared where there should be full and continuous 
perfection, so that we have a real debt to pay to the Majesty of God. 
Our religion takes its whole character from the idea we have of God, 
and the attitude which this idea makes us adopt before Him. Under 
the New Covenant, God has not loaded us with a weight of manifold 
ritual ordinances, because He thought that charity would suffice to 
regulate our attitude in the presence of His Beauty. There are attentions 
which we should not expect of slaves, but should be astonished not to 
find in sons. Our penances should be done spontaneously, generously, 
with zealous faith and love. They should be done at once, without 

1 In writing this chapter and the one following St. Benedict had in mind the 
Institutes of CASSIAN, IV., xvi. 


298 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

debate or secret self-justification. There is nothing better for making 
conscience delicate than this generous reparation for trivial faults and 
errors of frailty. Our Holy Father decrees that he who will not punish 
himself and correct his negligence by an act of humility must incur 
a more severe penalty. 1 Since he voluntarily abandons his character 
of a son in order to adopt again the internal attitude of the slave, he shall 
be treated for the slave that he would be, and will not be the gainer 

" But children for such faults are to be whipped." We know that 
there were children in the monastery, that they were real religious, and 
that they were present at all the Offices. The Rule comes to the assist 
ance of consciences not yet fully developed and stipulates that their 
mistakes in chanting or psalmody should be punished with the rod. 2 
The old customaries, particularly that of Udalric, 3 describe in detail the 
procedure for the correction of children. 

1 Nisi pro neglegentia prasenti confcstim vera humilitate subnixius satisfacerefestinarit 
(CASS., Inst., III., vii.). 

2 It is better to interpret the words pro tali culpa of any fault committed by the 
boy in the chant or psalmody, than of the fault of not humbling himself. 

3 Consuet. C7., 1. III., c. viii. et x. 


DE us QUI IN ALIIS QUIBUSLIBET If anyone while engaged in any sort 

REBUS DELINQUUNT. Si quis dum in of work, whether in the kitchen, the 

labore quovis, in coquina, in cellario, cellar, the office, the bakehouse, or the 

in ministerio, in pistrino, in horto, in garden, in any craft, and in any place, 

arte aliqua dum laborat, vel in quocum- shall do anything amiss, break or lose 

que loco, aliquid deliquerit, aut fregerit anything, or offend in any way what- 

quippiam, aut perdiderit, vel aliud soever, and shall not come at once 

quid excesserit, 1 et non veniens con- before the Abbot, or the community, 

tinuo ante Abbatem vel congrega- and of his own accord do penance and 

tionem, ipse ultro satisfecerit et pro- confess his fault, but it be known by 

diderit delictum suum; dum per alium means of another, let him be subjected 

cognitum fuerit, majori subjaceat to greater punishment. 

ST. BENEDICT here deals with the penance due for faults com 
mitted outside the oratory. He first enumerates the principal 
offices of the monastery in which faults might occur : the kitchen, 
cellar, office, 2 bakehouse, and garden. Then he uses general 
phrases to cover all : in practising any craft or fulfilling any work in any 
place, if anything be broken, lost, or spoilt, and damage, or trouble be 
caused to the community in a word, if any fault of inattention, negli 
gence or awkwardness be committed. In all these cases the offender 
must come at once, confess his fault, and do penance, before the Abbot 
if the Abbot be alone, before the Abbot and community if all the 
brethren are assembled together, which would ordinarily be the case. 3 
This penance probably consisted of kneeling or prostration. St. Bene 
dict would have it be voluntary : ultro satisfecerit (of his own accord do 
penance), and fulfilled with zeal: veniens continue (come at once). 
The worthy Goth at Subiaco, who let the blade of his tool fall into the 
lake, acted in this manner. 4 

In a numerous community, often scattered and toiling in various 
places, much going and coming and loss of time would obviously be 
caused, for the Abbot and for each member, if the smallest offence or 
damage had to be brought at once to the knowledge of all. So monastic 
custom established the " chapter of faults," which is held in chapter 
several times a week, and in which each accuses himself of faults against 
observance, or some small damage for which he is responsible. The 

1 D. BUTLER reads: . . . excesserit ubi ubi, et non veniens . . . 

2 It is difficult to determine the exact meaning of this word. Some ancient manu 
scripts read in monasterio. 

3 Qui vas fictile fregerit . . . aget panitentiam vespere in sex orationibus. St quis 
aliquid perdiderit, ante altare publice corripietur (S. PACH., Reg., cxxv., cxxxi.)- Si qu 
gillonem fictilem . . . cam aliquo fregerit, non aliter neglegentiam suam quam publi 
diluet panitentia, cunctisque in synaxi fratribus congregatis tamdiu prostratus tn terra 
veniam postulabit, etc. (CASS., Inst., IV., xvi.). 

* S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. vi. 



300 Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict 

penances, which cannot prudently be performed in church or even in the 
chapter room, are generally fulfilled in the refectory. 

St. Benedict foresees the case of a monk who from false shame or a 
refractory spirit conceals one of these external faults or formal errors. 
In such a case, when what has occurred is learnt by means of another, 
the penance must be more severe. 1 The Abbot might be informed by 
the deans or the brethren, and the words of our Holy Father : dum per 
alium cognitum fuerit (but it be known by means of another), are not 
sufficient to prove that the practice of denunciation existed in those 
days. According to that monastic custom each monk had to make 
known in chapter the faults he had noticed in others. There is no 
doubt that it existed almost universally in the ninth century; Cluny 
and Citeaux adopted it. It was suppressed by the Congregation of 
Monte Cassino, the Congregation of SS. Vitonus and Hydulphus, 
and the Congregations connected with them; but it is still in force 
among the Cistercians. 2 We must walk warily in examining the merits 
of a practice which has such abundant and venerable authority; yet it is 
easy to discover the reasons which have led us to abandon it. The duty 
of fraternal correction, fulfilled in that public fashion by all for the 
benefit of all, is yet the most delicate of duties. Charity is much en 
dangered. A sort of narrow and jealous surveillance easily spreads and 
entangles all in its meshes. How easily will all sorts of petty rivalries, 
revenges, and reprisals vent themselves under cover of this regularized 
denunciation ! Doubtless these dangers would vanish if the monks, 
denouncers as well as denounced, were all perfect. But then, to what 
purpose the denunciation? Abbot de Ranee replied that ill-conse 
quences, however real, should not make us forget the benefit which may 
be got from this practice both by the good and by the lukewarm. Of 
course a religious who sees acts or tendencies which are a serious danger 
for the monastery or for one of the brethren should never shelter himself 
behind the condemnation which the world reserves for the informer 
and dispense himself from telling the Abbot. That would be to 
undervalue the honour of his brethren and the charity which he owes 
to all. After all, the hive is of more value than one bee, and certainly 
of more value than a hornet. Nor are the complaints of him whose 
fault is thus revealed really admissible. 

Si animae vero peccati causa latens If, however, the guilt of his offence 
fuerit, tantumAbbati, aut spiritualibus be hidden in his own soul, let him 
senioribus patefaciat, qui sciant curare manifest it to the Abbot only or to the 
sua, et aliena vulnera non detegere aut spiritual seniors, who know how to 
publicare. heal their own wounds, and not to 

disclose or publish those of others. 

Is our Holy Father here contrasting public confession of faults against 
the Rule, and penance for such, with secret confession of theological 
faults ? More probably he refers to an extra-sacramental manifestation, 

1 Si hoc ultra confitetur, parcatur illi et oretur pro ea. Si autem deprehenditur atque 
convincitur . . . gravius emcndetur (S. AUG., Epist. CCXI., u. P.L., XXXIII., 962). 

2 MARTENE, De ant. monacb. rit., 1. I., c. v. 

Of those who Offend in any other Matters 301 

this regulation having then the same purpose as the fifty-first instrument 
of good works and the fifth degree of humility. Whether there be 
theological guilt or not, though the interior fault remain quite a formal 
one, the result of inadvertence, surprise, or impulse, though it be only 
a temptation, a disturbing mood, or an obstinate obsession the brother, 
with filial purpose and loyal desire to amend, should manifest his state 
candidly not to the whole community, since there has been no scandal 
or notoriety but to the Abbot or to the spiritual seniors. As we have 
said elsewhere, the ancients regarded this practice as an indispensable 
means of spiritual progress, and as a source of peace and security. So 
we shall tell the Abbot, even though he look austere and we fear his 
judgement and the results of our confidence. Whatever may be the 
Abbot s character and worth in other respects, has he not, for his children, 
a sort of sacramental character ? Has he not a right to know what is going 
on in his house and in his monks ? By " spiritual seniors " St. Benedict 
probably means all those who have an important part in the government 
of souls. Failing the Abbot, manifestation should be made to them. 
They are "spiritual" men, instructed in the ways of God; having 
triumphed over the devil in their own case, or at least reduced his power, 
by the experience thus acquired they may be useful to others. They 
know how to heal their own wounds and the wounds of others. And, 
adds St. Benedict, we may count on their discretion; they will not reveal 
or publish the fault confessed. 1 

These two chapters just ending, besides their formal instruction, 
are useful also as showing us the system of our monastic life with respect 
to the interior culture of the soul. We do not belong to the active 
life, and we cannot have a twofold existence. The fact that we have 
definitely broken with the world removes from us a number of dangers. 
We are in habitual contact with God and holy things, as though wrapped 
ever in a cloud of fragrant incense. Even our hours of toil should bring 
us close to God; for they do not dissipate our attention. And, besides, 
we should be watchful the whole day long; we should at once repair and 
expiate before our brethren absolutely all the small infidelities to which 
nature has succumbed. What does all this mean but examination of 
conscience, not examination at a fixed hour and for a stated time, but 
continuous and assiduous examination, which nothing may escape ? 
Let men who are plunged in the cares and perils of the apostolic ministry, 
ever liable in the very course of their activities to outstep the bounds 
and to yield overmuch to inclination let such as these fortify themselves 
with manifold and minute examinations of conscience; for such they are 
both right and prudent. But the needs of our souls are different, and 
for them our Holy Father has otherwise provided. Were we to inflict on 
ourselves these endless investigations, the result would only be to increase 
our sense of self-importance, to exhaust and trouble us, perhaps even to 
poison our lives. Let us, then, replace this superfluous inquiry by regu 
larity, absolute fidelity, perfect charity, and tranquil union with God. 

1 The best reading would appear to be as follows : Qui sciant curare e( wa e( aliens 
vulncra^ non detegere et publicare. 


DE SIGNIFICANDA BORA oPERis Let the announcing of the hour 

DEI. Nuntianda hora operis Dei, die for the Work of God, both by day and 

noctuque sit cura Abbatis, aut ipse night, be the Abbot s care: either by 

nuntiare, aut tali sollicito fratri injun- giving the signal himself or assigning 

gat hanc curam, ut omnia horis com- this task to such a careful brother 

petentibus compleantur. that all things may be done at the 

fitting times. 

A GAIN the subject is regularity and orderliness. Since the Work 
A of God forms the pivot of the monastic day, it is supremely 
L\ important that the times for the Office should be fixed with care 
-*- JL and punctually notified. Now, in an epoch when the length of 
the hour varied from day to day and when the methods of determining 
time were often rudimentary (see the commentary on the eighth chapter) 
we can understand why the duty of signifying the hour for the Work of 
God was given to the Abbot in person. He carries all responsibility. 
And in spite of the multiplicity of his occupations, St. Benedict is not 
afraid to entrust to him the care of calling the monks to prayer, seven 
times during the day and once at night. A wise provision, precluding 
disorder and disputes among the brethren; thus murmuring is banished 
and all are inspired with a greater esteem for the Divine Office. 

Nevertheless, the Abbot s labours, or absence, or ill-health, might 
obviously make him unable to fulfil this duty; so that our Holy Father 
allows him to entrust it to an attentive and diligent brother. The 
latter shall see that all the Office is fulfilled in its entirety and at the 
fitting times (see the end of Chapter XL). Nowadays Abbots delegate 
their power to an official, yet remain concerned that the work should 
be done with exactitude. 

Commentators take occasion of this chapter to describe the various 
methods formerly employed in monasteries for the awaking or warning 
of the brethren. They knocked at doors, 1 or used such various instru 
ments as horns, wooden trumpets, 2 clappers, rattles, etc. The nuns of 
St. Paula were summoned to Office by the singing of Alleluia? In the 
Benedictine Order, perhaps from the very time of St. Benedict, 4 the 
thing most often used was a bell or hand-bell. Remembering the 
beautiful prayers in the Pontifical for the blessing of bells and the 
solemn consecration given to them, we shall not doubt that their sweet 
and penetrating tones are the very voice of God and that we should 
answer their appeal with glad haste. 

1 CASS., Inst., IV., xii. 8 S. PACK., Reg., iii. 

3 S. HIERON., Epist. CVIIL, 19. P.L., XXII., 896. 

4 It is narrated in the Life of St. Benedict how St. Romanus used to let down bread 
to him in his hermitage by means of a rope and to warn him by means of a bell fixed to 
this rope (S. GREG. M., Dial., 1. II., c. i.). The signum alluded to in the Rule 
(Chapters XXIL, XLIIL, XLVIII.) is probably a bell. 


Of Signifying the Hour for the Work of God 303 

Psalmos autem, vel Antiphonas, post Let those, who have been ordered, 

Abbatem, ordine suo, quibus jussum intone the psalms and antiphons, each 

fuerit, imponant. Cantare autem aut in his order, after the Abbot. Let no 

legere non praesumat, nisi qui potest one presume to sing or to read except 

ipsum officium implere, ut aedificentur he can fulfil the office so that the 

audientes. Quod cum humilitate, et hearers may be edified. And let it be 

gravitate, et tremore faciat, et cui done with humility, gravity, and awe, 

jusserit Abbas. and by him whom the Abbot has